BOX 11185

If you or a friend would like to remember the National Federation of the Blind in your will, you can do so by employing the following language:

"I give, devise, and bequeath unto National Federation of the Blind, a District of Columbia nonprofit corporation, the sum of $_____ (or "_____ percent of my net estate" or "the following stocks and bonds: _____") to be used for its worthy purposes on behalf of blind persons."







by Kenneth Jernigan


by Kenneth Jernigan


by Kenneth Jernigan





by Susan Blumer



Copyright, National Federation of the Blind, Inc., 1981


The 1981 convention of the National Federation of the Blind brought another high point in the history of the organization. New plans were made, and new directions were charted. By Friday, July 3, hundreds of Federationists had arrived in Baltimore.

Saturday, July 4, was spent touring the National Center for the Blind (NFB Headquarters). Although it rained in torrents, spirits and enthusiasm were not dampened. Federationists had an opportunity to see first hand what the National Headquarters is like, and the sense of pride and accomplishment was obvious and pervasive.

There was food—hundreds of pounds of fried clams, hamburgers and hot dogs cooked over the charcoal in the courtyard, crates of peaches, bushels of cherries, tubs of potato chips, gallons of pickles and olives, and (yes, of course) barrels and barrels of NFB tea. But (delicious as it was) the food did not constitute the main attraction. There were the thousands of feet of shelving containing NFB literature, the aids and appliances, the offices and conference rooms, the tape recording and duplicating facilities, accommodations for seminars and other training sessions, the copy machines and extensive files, the facilities for producing Braille which are beginning to take shape, and the new computer system. The size of the physical plant (occupying an entire square block), the quality and attractiveness of the remodeled areas of the buildings, the efficiency and dedication of the staff, and the totality of the entire operation were topics of conversation throughout the remainder of the week. In fact, interest was so high that the agenda had to be shifted to permit a second tour of the facilities on Tuesday evening.

By Sunday, July 5, the convention was in full swing; registration, exhibits, committee meetings, specialized projects and activities, and Maryland hospitality. Monday, July 6, was the day for the meeting of the National Board and specialized divisions and groups. The Board heard an appeal from former members of the Iowa affiliate and seated the National Federation of the Blind of Iowa, of which Peggy Finder is President. Winners of the Associates' contest were announced: Sandy Sanderson, Alaska, first place, $1,000 prize; Lee Hagmeyer, Alaska, second place, $500 prize; Verla Kirsch, Iowa, third place, $200 prize; and Karen Mayry, South Dakota, fourth place, $100 prize. The 1981-82 contest to recruit associates was already actively going forward at the convention. The Board also considered the details of the march on Washington and the rally on the Capitol steps planned for Wednesday, July 8.

On Tuesday morning the general business sessions of the convention began, and what a convention it was! Bill Gallagher, Executive Director of the American Foundation for the Blind, spoke to the group Tuesday afternoon. Federal officials, employed blind persons, and personnel involved in the Job Opportunities for the Blind program spoke Thursday. On Friday Dr. Gerald Kass, Executive Vice President of the Jewish Braille Institute of America, gave an address. The remainder of the day was taken up with resolutions and other convention business.

On the Saturday following the convention a Job Opportunities for the Blind seminar was held. It was as stimulating and interesting as the one last year in Minneapolis, and the attendance of more than 200 gave testimony to the value and worthwhileness of the JOB effort.

This year's convention was significant for many things, none of which is more important than the clearcut statement of policy set forth in Resolution 81-01. The message of 81-01 is unmistakable and irrevocable. It is a promise to those who truly work to serve the interests of the blind and a warning to those who do not. The message is this: We will not be stampeded by scare tactics, misinformation, blandishments, or threats into an across-the-board support of the agencies. We will support or oppose agencies and programs (and our actions will be strong and determined) on the basis of their merit. Giving money to an agency is not necessarily giving money or assistance to the blind. Some agencies and programs are so bad that (assuming they cannot be reformed) the blind would be better off if they were put out of existence. Some agencies and programs do an effective job and work in partnership with the blind. We will support such agencies and programs to the full extent of our ability. 81-01 was carefully considered and fully debated. It was overwhelmingly passed by the convention.

Two other high points of the week round out the picture—the rally on the Capitol steps Wednesday, and the banquet Thursday evening. Both were historic in their effectiveness and their promise for the future. The spirit of 81-01 was evident on the Capitol steps on Wednesday, and it was also evident at the banquet on Thursday evening as exemplified by President Jernigan's address. The banquet was one of our largest, not only attended by Federationists but also by local, state, and federal officials and civic and social leaders.

Four scholarships were given at the banquet: Two $2,500 Hermione Grant Calhoun Scholarships, one $1,200 Howard Brown Ricard Scholarship, and one $1,200 special scholarship. Betsy Zaborowski of Colorado and Carol Lewis of Iowa each received a $2,500 Hermione Grant Calhoun Scholarship. The $1,200 Howard Brown Ricard Scholarship went to Jamil Mazrui of Michigan, and a special $1,200 scholarship went to John Boyer of Wisconsin. John Boyer, who is deaf as well as blind, is a graduate student in computer science.

Convention 1981 was a joyous, wonderful, work filled, tiring, stimulating, mind stretching experience. It was a time of re-dedication and reassessment. Because of the public pledges and commitments of federal officials, the sense of growing power and responsibility, the charting of new directions, the unparalleled feeling of closeness and purpose, and the obvious and increasing momentum of accomplishment, this was probably the most significant and satisfying convention we have ever had. The mood was not one of smugness and complacency but of work to be done and the strength to do that work—of opportunity and hope in the decade ahead—of the chance (indeed, the necessity) of shaping our own destiny and determining our own future. This was convention 1981. It was an experience never to be forgotten—an episode in the saga of a people on the march—a time to be remembered and a heritage to be cherished.

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Baltimore, July 9, 1981

The man was old and senile, and he ate without manners or grace. His daughter was ashamed and ordered him to eat in a corner apart from the others. There came a day when he broke his plate, and the daughter was angry. "My son shall not see such disgusting behavior," she said. "Since you eat like a pig, you shall be treated like a pig. In the future you shall eat in the yard from a trough." Her son was five, the thing in life she loved most. He asked for a hammer and boards.

"For what purpose?" she asked.

"To build you a trough," he said, "so that I may feed you when you are old."

So it has been through the generations, each teaching the next and then doubling back on itself for reinforcement—change coming slow and learning difficult. Yet, there come bends in the road, shifts in direction. It is not inevitable that each generation take hammer and boards to build troughs for the next. Among times there is a time that turns a corner, and everything this side of it is new. Times do not go backward.1 For the blind the corner has been turned, and the time is now.

When the National Federation of the Blind came into being in 1940, its means were limited, but its mission was clear. There were already many organizations and groups in the field (residential schools, Braille and talking book libraries, sheltered shops, and governmental and private agencies)—and some of them had blind directors. But their mission was not our mission; their purpose was not our purpose.

The National Federation of the Blind was altogether different. It did not operate service programs or provide training. It served as a monitor for those who did. It was a check and balance, a watchdog. And it was something more: It was a means whereby the blind could come together in local chapters, state assemblies, and national convention to discuss problems and take concerted action. Underlying everything else was a single, overriding article of faith and belief, so compelling as to focus our purpose and cement our unity. It was this: We as blind people have the right (even if we make mistakes) to speak for ourselves; and no other group or individual—no governmental agency, no private service organization, no charitable foundation—has the right to do it for us.

The founders of our movement recognized that our principal problem was not the loss of eyesight—not blindness but what people thought about blindness. In other words, the problem was not physical but social. It manifested itself in the misconceptions and mistaken ideas of the general public, and since the professionals in the agencies were part of the public, it manifested itself in their behavior, as well. The blind, also, were part of the public; and they, too, were affected. They saw themselves as others saw them. They tended to accept the public view of their limitations, and thus did much to make those limitations a reality. The problems envisioned by the founders of our movement are still very much with us. But we have turned a corner of time, and there is a newness.

Last year the California Franchise Tax Board (the arm of government which deals with state income tax filings) rejected the forms of many blind taxpayers. Sharon Gold, our California President, demanded an explanation. She was first told that the form had been changed and that many sighted people had checked the wrong box. The blind of California (as is true in many parts of the country) receive an extra state income tax exemption. Whether this is good or bad, it is the law, and there is a box on the form for appropriate checking. The Tax Board officials said that the boxes had been shifted and that the sighted had not been observant.

As Sharon probed further, the explanations became less and less satisfying. When she told the Board that it did not seem reasonable to reject the tax forms of the blind because of the carelessness of the sighted, the officials explained that they had done nothing of the sort. They had, as they put it, used care and "logic." They had examined the face sheet of each tax form on which blindness was checked and had rejected only those showing an occupation or profession which would obviously be impossible for the blind. In cases of doubt (and presumably these were few) they had applied still further "logic." They had, as a board official put it, checked the signature to see "if it appeared to have been signed by a blind person"—whatever that may mean.

Whether Sharon's form was rejected because she is a teacher (one of the impossible professions) or because she cannot legibly write her name, the board did not say. Whichever it was, it had about the same effect. Although we who are blind do not insist on having our cake and eating it too, we are not willing to go to the other extreme and pay for our cake and then not have it. If we must suffer damage to our image (and many feel that we do) because of the millions of tax forms which proclaim that we need an extra exemption simply because we are blind, that should be enough. We should not have to go further and be illegally denied the right to take the exemption, be charged interest for claiming it, and then have to submit to false and demeaning statements about us in the press into the bargain.

Sharon protested to the Tax Board and the newspapers, and we took the matter to court, where it is still being litigated and is now on appeal. Some will say that we are quibbling; others that we are over reacting; and still others that we are militant and radical. Well, let them! If it is true that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, it is equally true that the beginning of that road is usually paved with what are called quibbly incidents. The big ones come later when the direction is clear, the pattern well established, and the highway broad and irreversible. We have turned the corner of time, and we are simply no longer willing for our road to hell to be paved with other people's good intentions. The days of second-class status are behind us.

The California Tax Board's notion that the signature of a blind person is different from the signature of a sighted person (and presumably less legible) is widely held. Probably most people (including many in this room) would accept it without question, simply as a matter of common sense. Not long ago I stood at a counter in a bank. I signed a document. My sighted associate said to the teller, "Maybe I had better print his name below the signature, so that you can read it." Then, my associate put her signature on the document. After a moment of embarrassed hesitation, the teller said, "Perhaps you wouldn't mind printing your name, too. I can't read your signature any better than his." My associate has perfect eyesight. If she had been blind, her unreadable signature would have been attributed to blindness. Mine might have been due to haste, lack of attention, poor training, or any of a dozen other things, but it was automatically chalked up to blindness. Moreover, the bank teller probably surrounded the incident with connotations of inferiority, and I doubt that she changed her opinion because of the actions of my associate—or, for that matter, even remarked or remembered them. Blind people cannot write legibly. Sighted people must print their names for them. She has proof.

Under date of May 22, 1980, the Des Moines Register printed an article captioned, "Woman Opens Cut, Bleeds to Death." The article says: "A 59-year-old woman bled to death in her home Wednesday after she accidentally reopened an incision she received while undergoing kidney dialysis. Polk County Medical Examiner Dr. R.C. Wooters said she did not realize how much blood she was losing because she was nearly blind." The human body contains several quarts of blood. Do you really think an individual (sighted or blind) would bleed quart after quart and not know it because of blindness?

Mike Cramer is the President of our Chicago Chapter. On September 2nd, 1980, he went to work for the Chicago Transit Authority as a Customer Assistance Coordinator, handling calls and complaints from the public. On September 4, he received a call from a woman who said she had a complaint. That morning, while she was riding the bus, she had observed a blind man standing up. The driver had not made any of the other passengers get up and give him a seat. Mike listened until she had finished. Then he told her that he was the blind man—that as a company employee he rode to work on a pass and could only sit if all of the paying passengers had seats. This was standard policy and posed no problem for him. The woman was at first surprised, then indignant. She had no intention of giving up her image of blindness or her preconceptions. "All right!" she said. "Then I want to speak to your supervisor."

In January of this year the Christian Science Monitor News Service sent out a release deploring the evils of gambling. The headline was a grabber. Calculated to capture the fancy and stir the imagination, it read: "Now, Braille Slot Machines for Blind Gamblers." The article (complete with facts and statistics) is a rather standard piece, indicating that the nation in general and gamblers in particular are going to hell in a hand basket. Despite the titillating headline, the only mention of blindness comes in the last two sentences, which read: "At one Atlantic City casino, slot machines are coded in Braille for the blind gambler. Is there a dreadful symbolism here for all of us?" Yes, there is a "dreadful symbolism," but it is not in the slot machines. It is in the mistaken notions and false assumptions of the author and his readers.

On May 13, 1980, the National Enquirer carried the headline: "Because Both Mom and Dad are Blind, Five-Year-Old Angel Is Raising Her Baby Brother." The article is a drippy account of a brave and wonderful little girl who gives up normal play and almost all other activities of childhood life to raise baby brother —everything from diapers to feeding. Mommy and daddy are blind. The blind couple (who, incidentally, are members of this organization) were furious. The article, they say, was a total distortion and a misrepresentation. With devastating logic, they ask: "Who the hell do they think raised the five-year-old?"

And where does all of this nonsense come from—this drivel about angel sisters, rejected tax forms. Braille slot machines, blind bus passengers, and the rest? Of course, much of it comes from the primitive past when light meant safety and dark meant danger. Eyesight and light were equated, as were blindness and darkness. Light was pure and good. Darkness was evil and fear.

But there is something more, an added element which skews the picture and poisons the public mind. I speak of the governmental and private rehabilitation and social service agencies, the libraries and schools, the lighthouses, the workshops, the dog guide facilities, and the various other institutions established to give service to the blind. Not all of them, to be sure, are negative and bad. In fact, a growing number are turning the corner of time and working with us in the newness, espousing our cause and marching with us to freedom and progress. They stand by our sides as partners and equals.

Unfortunately such agencies are not in the majority, nor are they the most powerful or wealthy. Contrary to public belief, most of the agencies do us more harm than good. Some are a mixed bag, providing certain helpful services while, at the same time, doing things which hurt us and hold us back. Others (and it may as well be bluntly and directly said) are so bad and so destructive that, regardless of the occasional good they do, the blind would be better off if they were closed down and put out of business.

This is hard for the average person to accept or understand. How can it be? Why? The answer requires perspective. At first the agencies were few and scattered. They saw their role as one of benevolence and charity—taking care of people who could not do for themselves—giving meager subsistence and a ray of sunshine, adding a little cheer.

Then, in the 1930's, the agencies proliferated. They became big business. The casual volunteer and the friendly visitor began to be replaced by a burgeoning army of so-called "professionals"—rehabilitation counselors, social workers, directors of development (a high-toned term for fundraisers), peripatologists, evaluators, and other such. There were also administrators and a hierarchy of supervisors. As the staffs and the budgets mushroomed, so did the feeling of something to protect, the defensiveness about criticism, the sense of self-importance, and the rationalization of whatever it took to keep the blind in their places so as to justify the elaborate bureaucracy, the ballooning expenditures, and the growing myth of special knowledge and mysterious "professionalism." The second-class status and dependency of the blind were absolutely indispensible to the survival and continued expansion of the system. It is not hard to see why. If the blind need only correct information, a brief period of training in techniques, an initial boost, and a reasonable chance to compete, the agencies (while performing a useful service) cannot be the center of existence. Their role is diminished. On the other hand, if blindness is an unmitigated tragedy (fraught with psychological disturbance and requiring complex and long-term professional care) the agencies necessarily become the dominant element in the life of every person who becomes blind—not for just a day or a month or a year, but forever—from the cradle to the grave.

Seen in this context, the establishment of the National Federation of the Blind in 1940 was a threat of total disaster. If the organization flourished and the contagion spread, if the blind began to act independently and plan their own lives, if they convinced the public and themselves that they could function as equals and compete with others, the custodial agencies would be held in check and viewed without mystery or awe. Their role would be important, but not godlike. Their power would be limited, not infinite.

Real life is not like a textbook, and most events are not clear-cut or immediate. At first the Federation was small and ignored. Most of the agencies tried to deny its difference, pretending that it was simply another of themselves, one among many. In some parts of the country our chapters were weak and our purpose blurred. Sometimes the agencies took control of an affiliate, bought off the leaders or bribed or threatened. There were partnerships, alliances, joint efforts, confrontations, maneuverings, and realignments.

But the direction was certain and the trend unmistakable. The blind kept joining—first by the thousands, then by the tens of thousands. In the beginning we were weak and divided. Then came accelerating power and unity. Ultimately we were fifty thousand members—clear in our mission, sure in our purpose, and firm in our unity: the stongest force in the affairs of the blind.

Likewise, there was change in the agencies. They began as a scattering, local in purpose and differing in view. They constituted no national force. Then, the most reactionary of them (led by the American Foundation for the Blind and its creature the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped, NAC) sought to join forces and pool effort. Hard though it is to comprehend or believe, their purpose (which became a veritable obsession and a principal endeavor) was to make war upon the blind, the very people they were pledged to serve. Not all of the blind—not the meek or the passive or the ones they could control: these were needed for show and fundraising. Only the trouble makers—the independents—the members of the National Federation of the Blind. Above everything else, they wanted to destroy the National Federation of the Blind and its leaders.

Through the years the agencies have become wealthy—tremendously wealthy. Our best information indicates that the top fifteen or twenty of them have combined resources of more than half a billion dollars. There are several hundred of them in the country, and (despite the efforts of NAC and the American Foundation for the Blind), they are not a monolithic force with a single purpose. They are diverse and varied in goals, attitudes, effectiveness, and behavior.

This brings us to the present, to 1981. As I have already said, a growing number of the agencies have turned the corner of time and are sensitively working with us to achieve better lives. They are partners and allies. Some of the others are not vicious but only shackled by old ideas.

Consider, for instance, the Christian Record Braille Foundation. Many of its projects are worthwhile, and (so far as I know) its motives are good. Yet, recently it produced a brochure which (though it may be well-intentioned and excellent for fundraising) hurts our image and slows our progress. Entitled "At Ease With A Blind Person," the brochure says:

IN TAKING LEAVE: End your conversation in such a manner that the blind person knows you are leaving. Ask if he needs assistance to get to his destination, and take him there if possible...

IN GETTING INTO A CAR: 'Susan we're taking you for a drive into the country. This is the back seat of the car, and you'll be sitting behind the driver.'

As you approach the car, tell her whether she will be sitting in the front or back, or give a choice. When you reach the car, open the door, place her hand on top of it, allowing her to sit down by her own efforts. Make sure she is comfortable, with everything she needs in reach. Make sure your blind passenger is sitting far enough away from the door so that when you close it, it will not bump her in any way...

IN PARTICIPATING IN CHURCH OR COMMUNITY PROJECTS: Give the blind person some project that will help him feel important such as being a member of the program committee, or phoning members to alert them to the next meeting.

The problem with the brochure is not meanness but condescension. The blind person is treated like a child or a pet, not an equal human being. The blind are perceived as passive, with things being done to them or for them—not active or participating—not giving, but only taking.

Then, there is the newsletter put out last year by the St. Louis Society for the Blind.2 Again, it is not meant to be harmful or destructive. Quite the contrary. But it does us real damage and lessens our opportunities. It says:

The Spring of the year can be extremely depressing and threatening to those who cannot see.

This is so because the weather is breaking, travel conditions are improving, and the people who can see, who have been 'locked in' for the winter with those who cannot see, are now getting out and moving about independently. This Springtime freedom for them leaves you alone once again. Now you must fend for yourself. It's no wonder that depression can set in when the Spring of the year can be seen in this light.

The important thing to bear in mind is that you can and will make it through this depression. There are those of us out there who want to see you enjoying the freedom, the warmth and the loveliness of Springtime in a way that is meaningful to you.

If you feel a little 'down' or 'blue' please don't hesitate to call me so that we can talk over your feelings. Remember, I'm here if you need me.

What a distortion! What condescension and misapplied charity! It is enough to make you ill—but it is not vicious or said with malice. It is meant to be helpful and constructive, but it blights our chances and limits our opportunities just as much as if it sprang from evil motives.

So much for those agencies which have turned the corner of time and work with us, and for those which mean well but are misinformed. What about the others? What about the National Accreditation Council for Agencies Serving the Blind and Visually Handicapped (NAC) and its principal allies? They are not misinformed or confused, and they are not motivated by good intentions. They know exactly what they are doing. They have deliberately and cold bloodedly set out to ruin our movement and destroy the reputations and careers of our leaders—and if they can get the job done, they will do it.

I know something about this firsthand, for as far back as 1975 a blind lawyer told me (in the presence of a witness) that he had been called to New York and offered money by leading agency officials to embark on a campaign to destroy my reputation and ruin my career. He repeated the story to Jim Gashel, our Director of Governmental Affairs. Jim tells me that a sighted lawyer told him that he had received the same offer. These things are a matter of public record in testimony before a committee of Congress.

There is more! As Federationists know, I was director of Iowa's agency for the blind for twenty years, establishing programs which brought a special citation from President Lyndon Johnson, appointments to national committees from President Ford, and a host of other awards and recognitions: Advisor on matters affecting blindness to the Federal Commissioner of Rehabilitation, Special Consultant to the Chairman of the White House Conference on the Handicapped, Consultant on Blindness to the Smithsonian, recipient of an award from the American Library Association for building and directing the biggest and best library for the blind in the nation, honorary doctorates from Drake and Seton Hall Universities, and a variety of others.

Yet, in 1978 and '79 I found myself under such vicious and unreasonable attack as to boggle the mind. The Des Moines Register, which had always been uniformly supportive, suddenly started a massive campaign of personal vilification, innuendo, and downright falsehood, which continued day after day. There were literally hundreds of articles. The National Federation of the Blind as an organization and I as an individual were put under investigation by the Federal District Attorney. Every record and paper was subpoenaed and studied, probably at hundreds of thousands of dollars of cost to the taxpayers. There were no charges from the Federal Attorney—only hints and silence, followed by scurrilous articles of innuendo and suggestion in the newspaper. Yet, the Federal Attorney did not give back our papers or admit that she had acted on false information. She simply waited. All of this started in the spring of 1978. By the fall of 1980 it had long since been clear that there was nothing to investigate, no basis for charges, and no possibility of further delay without extreme embarrassment to the federal officials. The Federal Attorney quietly wrote a letter saying that she was closing her file and returning all of our papers—no accusation, no attempt to indict, no slightest suggestion of any wrongdoing or inappropriate action. Also, of course, no expression of regret for any damage to reputation or career. Did the Des Moines Register report it all and apologize for its defamation? Not on your life! It did not make a peep.

And why do I bring all of this up? We know that NAC was in contact with the Des Moines newspaper. We know that NAC (using publicly contributed funds) reprinted the articles and circulated them by the thousands throughout the country. We know that Dr. Bleecker, the Executive Director of NAC, was in touch with the newspaper when he went to the Federal Department of Labor in his unsuccessful attempt to destroy our program of Job Opportunities for the Blind. We know that Dick Johnstone, the President of the Minneapolis Society for the Blind, publicly boasted that the NAC forces had participated in the Iowa campaign to try to destroy me and the Federation—only regretting, as he said, that they had "let the matter die on the vine." Did NAC and its allies attempt to incite the Federal Attorney with false information? We are not currently prepared to surmise, but under the Freedom of Information Act we have requested all relevant documents from the files of the FBI and other appropriate federal departments. The emerging pattern is not pleasant.

If I were the only Federation leader to receive such treatment, I might chalk it up to fluke or coincidence, but I am not. Don Capps, our First Vice President, is a respected citizen in his community. He is a high official at the Colonial Life Insurance Company, a past President of Rotary, a prominent member of his church, and a civic leader of statewide note and importance. Yet, he was subjected to the humiliation of publicly being called a "paranoid son of a bitch" by the director of the agency for the blind in his state. When a reporter asked the director if he had said it, there was no retraction or apology, only the comment that he believed that he had not called him a "paranoid son of a bitch" but a "paranoid bastard." The director in question had concerted his efforts with the NAC supporters in a variety of battles against our movement.

Our Second Vice President, Rami Rabby, is a man of culture and learning. He holds a graduate degree with honors from Oxford University. Because he dared express himself at a public meeting, the director of the American Foundation for the Blind and the head of NAC wrote letters to the Citibank of New York (where he was employed) and tried to jeopardize his job.

There is more! Last year there was a break-in at my home. Silver and other valuables were thrown on the floor and not taken. Papers had obviously been rifled. Mrs. Anderson, my assistant, visited her parents in Des Moines last year. That very day there was a break-in at their home—little taken, papers rifled, same pattern. Ralph Sanders, our Immediate Past President, has had at least three break-ins during the past year—a suitcase taken on one occasion and nothing on the others—papers rifled, same pattern. Duane Gerstenberger, our Director of Job Opportunities for the Blind, and Ramona Walhof, the Assistant Director, have both had break-ins during the past few months—papers rifled, same pattern. John Cheadle, while doing a tour of duty in the National Office, and Marc Maurer (another of our leaders) have both had the same experience. Our Denver office was recently rifled—nothing apparently taken. Harold Snider, who has repeatedly gone to NAC meetings as our observer, has had two break-ins during the past few months. Cassettes of NAC meetings and similar items were taken. Our Headquarters building in Baltimore has been broken into, and a bottle of gasoline containing a wick was found by our boiler room door. During the past year both Harold Snider and Rami Rabby have had acid thrown at them on the streets. Recently Rami received in his mail box a cardboard with his initials formed in Braille dots made of eight live rifle bullets.

Is all of this coincidence? Perhaps—but I don't think so. Does that mean that I am accusing NAC or its allies of the illegal break-ins and the hooliganism? Not at all. But I do say that the climate of hate and bitterness which they have created can inspire such actions, and I also say that the rate of attack and harassment upon Federation leaders far exceeds any reasonable possibility of happenstance.

While we are exploring these matters, another question presents itself. Why would certain agency officials hate the Federation and wish to destroy us? The answer is not difficult. In Cleveland we helped blind food service operators bring a lawsuit for a million dollars against the Cleveland Society for the Blind and its director for illegally withholding money from the blind operators and for other acts of repression. In Minnesota we brought a suit against the Minneapolis Society for the Blind for illegally excluding blind persons from membership and participation. I personally testified in that case. We also exposed and publicized the fact that Dick Johnstone, the so-called volunteer head of the Society (and the Chairman of its Building Committee) was the owner of a company which received a lucrative plumbing contract for remodeling the Society's building. In Alabama the former head of rehabilitation recently went to the federal penitentiary for extorting public money and automobiles from those receiving grants from his agency. We helped expose him. A workshop official in Alabama was also convicted of theft. We helped in that one, too. The Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind (a NAC-accredited agency) had a psychologist, one Tandy Culpepper, who double dipped in his travel expenses early this year and was about to be permitted quietly to resign. We sniffed the matter out and brought it to the newspapers. He is now likely on the road to prosecution and conviction.

In February of this year our magazine, the Braille Monitor, exposed irregularities in the audit of the Utah State Agency for the Blind. A janitor at the Agency, accompanied by one of the top officials, came to our Salt Lake City President (who is employed in the agency workshop) and publicly cursed and abused him. Later that day the janitor attacked and physically beat him. This was in February. We immediately sent representatives to protest to the Governor, and we took the matter to the press. Neither the janitor nor the official was fired. In March our Salt Lake President (Premo Foianini, who is in this room tonight) was struck in the back by the janitor with a broom handle with such force that the handle was broken. He was compelled to be off work and take treatments for contusions of the spine. The janitor was brought to court by the Salt Lake City Attorney and convicted of criminal assault. So far as I know, he has not been fired but is still employed by the Utah Agency for the Blind.

We encouraged the investigative reporting which led to the Wall Street Journal articles exposing abuses of blind employees in sheltered workshops, and we played the same part in the program carried by Sixty Minutes. In May of last year at the meeting of workshops for the blind held in San Diego, Joseph Larkin (one of the powers in the workshop establishment and a principal leader of NAC) laid it on the line, whistling to keep up his courage and belligerently expressing his fear and desperation. Much can be read between the lines of what he said.

"Can our values ever really flourish," he asked, "in an arena where we continue to fight with rear guard actions? ... the NFB could become the most powerful force.

"What can we do to move toward a reassessment and reassertion of our traditional position? The first step is to acknowledge that we do not have the same ability to influence or control events that we once had. There is a new set of circumstances; and friends, foes, and neutrals are all more powerful than they used to be.

"But that does not mean that we must remain deprived of a fully effective intelligence mechanism or the will to move aggressively when the need arises or that the NFB must be allowed to become a dominant power...

"We and our allies still make up the mightiest assembly of technological, professional, and economic resources in the delivery of human services within our field. The idea that we cannot afford a given amount of defense to meet NFB activity is simply hokum."

So spoke Joseph Larkin. This is the much vaunted "professionalism" of the NAC agencies, the dedication to service, the accountability for the use of publicly contributed funds, and the concern for the dignity and rights of the blind.

Yes, I think I know why NAC and certain agencies in the field hate the Federation and try to discredit its leaders. Yet, some people tell me that they don't see why we can't all get together. After all, they say, you are all dealing with blindness, and you are all working for the same thing. To which I emphatically answer: No, we are not!

Whenever our representatives go to a state legislature or appear in the halls of Congress, they can almost invariably expect to be met by agency-inspired attempts at character assassination and wholesale distribution of the outdated and discredited articles from the Des Moines Register. Apparently, this is the only way the agency officials know to try to divert attention from their shortcomings and hide their failures. It has happened here in Maryland. (Ask the Governor and the members of the Legislature. They can tell you.) We must expect it to happen every time we speak out—and not just here but everywhere in the country. But it is beginning to wear thin. It is having a reverse effect.

Where do we go from here? In the climate of block grants, budget cuts, and pleas from the agencies that (strictly in our own self-interest, of course) we unconditionally support them, we must avoid ill considered actions, hasty judgments, and unwise commitments. The agencies know our power, so (in their time of need) they are urging us to make an alliance with them and present a common front. Regarding this matter, our course is clear. When the interests of the blind coincide with the interests of the agencies, we should support them. Otherwise, we should not.

Some of the agencies have tried to bring us into line by scare tactics and false information. For instance, when the present Administration took office, the story circulated that the mailing of free reading matter for the blind was about to be lost and that, therefore, we were going to lose our library service. A lot of blind people were stampeded into writing letters supporting the agencies. It is now clear that no such thing was ever contemplated, either by President Reagan or anybody else in a position to count. On the other hand, there are budget cuts and administrative changes which can cause harm and do damage.

We must avoid simplistic solutions. We do not want (and I doubt that the Administration wants) to eliminate needed services to the blind or any meaningful program; but more money for an agency does not necessarily mean more help or a better life for those who are supposed to be served by that agency. Witness Alabama, Cleveland, Minneapolis, Utah, and NAC. We should seek sufficient funding for services to the blind, but we should also take advantage of the present opportunity to reform, improve, and restructure the agencies. With a revamped and diminished bureaucracy (one with enough personnel to carry out legitimate duties but not enough to conduct wars against the blind) we might actually get more and better programs with less expenditure.

Most important of all, we must see our present situation in perspective. We have come a long way since 1940. We are now united and powerful, but we are also mature enough to use our power selectively and responsibly.

When dealing with the public, we can show muscle when necessary. Last year, for instance, when a blind mother in Washington was told that she must give up her children because she was blind, and this year in Florida when the same thing occurred, we had the resources and the know-how to put a stop to it. We went to the courts. Both mothers now have their children and can raise them in peace.

But more and more frequently we do not need to use muscle. Persuasion and discussion are sufficient. The public has great goodwill toward us, and as they learn of our capacity and normality, they are not only willing but glad to accept us as partners and equals. Of course, some are not. But most are— and the number is growing daily.

As to the agencies, many of them have already turned the corner of time and are with us in the newness. They believe as strongly as we that their proper role is partner, not custodian. They are friends and allies.

With respect to those other agencies, the ones who still try to custodialize and control us, their time is fast running out. They will either learn to respect us and treat us as equal human beings, or they will go out of business. It is that simple, that definite, and that final. If they cannot turn the corner of time and share the newness, they will cease to exist.

I want to address my final words to the active members of this organization—to the blind, and to our sighted brothers and sisters who have made our cause their cause. I also want to speak to those of you who are new to our movement, perhaps with us for the first time. To all of you I say this: We are not helpless, and we are not children. We know our problems, and we know how to solve those problems. The challenge we face is clear, and the means of meeting that challenge are equally clear. If we fail in courage or nerve or dedication, we have only ourselves to blame.

But, of course, we will not fail. The stakes are too high and the need too great to permit it. To paraphrase the Biblical statement: Upon the rock of Federationism we have built our movement, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it! For the first time in history we can play a decisive role in determining our own destiny. If there was ever a time for dedication and commitment, that time is now. What we in the Federation do during the next decade may well determine the fate of the blind for a century to come. To win through to success will require all that we have in the way of purpose, dedication, loyalty, good sense, and guts. It will also require love and an absence of bitterness. We have turned the corner of time, and we live in a newness. My brothers and my sisters, the future is ours! Come! Join me on the barricades and we will make it all come true.


1. C.S. Lewis, Perelandra (Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1944), page 62.
2. Highlights (St. Louis Society for the Blind, February, March, April, 1980), page 7.

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Wednesday, July 8, 1981, is a day that will long be remembered by the blind of the nation. Almost 2,000 of us traveled from the Convention Center in Baltimore to Washington. We came by buses and assembled several blocks north of the Capitol. We walked along Delaware Avenue to the west side of the Capitol where we gathered on the sidewalk and the grass.

"Fifty thousand blind folks can't be wrong!" "We are the NFB! We want the world to see!" "We want rights and responsibilities!" "We know who we are and we won't go back!" These were the cheers of the crowd as it moved through the streets and gathered in front of the Capitol. These were the sentiments of the blind individuals who made up the crowd and the thousands back home who were unable to come. "We speak for ourselves!" "We are the blind of the NFB!" Our story was told by our words, but it was told even more clearly by our presence.

The government officials who came (and there were many) were impressed and interested. The Vice President and the congressmen who spoke to us were only a few of the officials who heard and saw us. This march was not a protest. Rather, it was an exercise in communication, a means of educating the government and the public-at-large about what we are and what we intend to be.

As the largest number of blind people ever to go to Washington massed on the sidewalks and the lower steps at the west of the Capitol, the drama built. Each delegation held high a standard with the name of the state prominently displayed, and there was a banner 12 feet long by 3 feet wide bearing our name and logo, which was hoisted high in the air on aluminum rods. At the top of the steps were a podium and microphones, as well as news cameras, security people, and all of the ceremony which goes with such an occasion. Jim Gashel was Master of Ceremonies. President Jernigan, the Vice President of the United States, and other dignitaries waited in a security area just inside the Capitol building.

Then, the program began. President Jernigan came out the doors of the Capitol to the podium, where a number of congressmen and senators were assembled; the chants and singing quieted down; and the address was delivered:

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an address delivered in Washington, D.C.
July 8, 1981, by

We, the blind of this country, have come to the nation's Capitol to talk with the leaders of our government and the members of the public-at-large. We do not come with protest; we do not come with complaint; we do not come with anger. Instead, we come with hope; we come with belief; and we come with determination.

Today there is a new mood in the land, a reexamination of values and goals. Some are afraid of the newness, but we are not afraid. Change has come before, and it has been good or bad depending upon how it has been dealt with and understood, hi 1933 a change came, and some cried out and wept for the days that were gone. They looked back and wished that the past would return. But we did not look back or weep for the past, for in the main it had brought us only isolation, loneliness, and poverty. Throughout the long centuries we had experienced lack of opportunity, lack of jobs, lack of acceptance, and lack of understanding. Most of us had no help and no hope.

The newness in 1933 brought change, and it also brought the promise of better lives for the blind. Some of that promise has been fulfilled, but much of it remains a hope deferred and a dream delayed. Since 1933 a growing number of government and private agencies have been established to give us services, and many of these agencies have been helpful and constructive. But increasingly they have turned away from their original purpose to build empires and enlarge their staffs. Service has become secondary. More and more the primary purpose of far too many of the agencies has become the perpetuation of the system and the growth of power. They have forgotten that they were created to be servants and have sought to become masters. They now try to dominate, control, and custodialize us. They treat us like children and wards.

But no more! Now, in 1981, another time of newness has come; and, as in 1933, we are not afraid. We do not weep for the past or hope that it will return, for the years ahead can be better for us than any we have ever known. We do not want to go back to the pre-1933 days of isolation, neglect, and poverty; nor do we want to go back to the pre-1981 days of custody, control, and half fulfilled promises.

Some have oversimplified the relation of citizens to agencies of government. They have said that we must either be in favor of more money, bigger bureaucracy, and service to people—or less money, reduced bureaucracy, and no service to people. This is not the way it is. It is not the way we as blind people have experienced it in our daily lives.

Earlier this year the President of our Salt Lake City Chapter was cursed and beaten by an employee of the Utah State Agency for the Blind. He as an individual (and we as an organization) had dared question the audit of that agency. The agency employee who beat and cursed him was not fired. A month later he hit him again (this time in the back), causing contusions of the spine, absence from work, and medical treatment. The agency employee has now been convicted of criminal assault, but so far as I know, he has still not been fired. He continues to draw his paycheck from the government for the "service" he gives to the blind.

In Cleveland blind food service operators (in order to have the opportunity to work) were compelled to sign an agreement that the agency had the right to tell them what kind of food to eat, when to change their underwear, and what type of deodorant to use. In Cincinnati and Houston blind workers in the sheltered shops are even now fighting for the right to organize and to have minimum wages. Part of what they fight is federal rules and regulations which encourage the substandard conditions.

In Phoenix a blind sheltered shop employee has done higher production than a sighted employee doing exactly the same job, but he is paid lower wages. Federal regulations permit it. In Alabama the former head of the state's federally established rehabilitation program went to the federal penitentiary this year for stealing money appropriated for the handicapped. In Michigan a blind man passed a State Civil Service test for automobile mechanic, with a score of 96. Government officials removed his name from the list and placed it on a separate register for the handicapped. All of the handicapped who apply for Civil Service jobs in Michigan are now to be given uniform scores of 70 and have their names placed on the segregated register.

Last year in Florida and in the state of Washington, agencies of government tried to take children from their mothers on the grounds that blind mothers cannot properly raise their children. There are many in this audience today who are living proof to the contrary, and we of the National Federation of the Blind were able to defeat both attempts.

No, we the blind are not afraid of the newness which lies ahead. We are glad to leave behind us those elements of the past which have been negative, and we are equally glad to bring with us into the present and the future those elements which are positive and good. We want to give up the isolation and poverty of the pre-1933 days, but we want to keep the good will and the kind intentions. We want to give up the custody and the agency domination of the pre-1981 days, but we want to keep the opportunities and the services which are truly needed. Most of all, we want the right and the chance to do for ourselves and live as equal citizens.

Many of the government agencies (and the people who run those agencies) are well-suited to the newness in the land. We will work to help them get funding, and we believe that our Congress and our President will want them to have it. We will work with equal vigor to see that those agencies which live in the past and try to custodialize and control our lives are either reformed and restructured, or put out of business. Again, we believe our Congress and our President will help us do it.

We the blind have come of age, both as a people and a movement. Our journey to freedom has been slow and painful—but we feel that this is a time of infinite possibility and great opportunity. It can also be a time of challenge and threat. The future is not fixed and determined but alternative and flexible. It will be what we make it, and this is why we have come today to the nation's Capitol. We ask for acceptance and understanding, both from our Congress and from the Executive branch of Government. We know that achievement is made of high hopes and hard work, of drudgery and dreams. We are willing to work, and work hard—but we also hope, and we dare to dream. We believe that, through understanding and good will, the officials of our government and the members of the general public will help us find the opportunity to work, and will share with us the joy of our hopes and the wonder of our dream.

At the conclusion of his address, President Jernigan introduced the Vice President of the United States, who said in part: "Thank you Mr. Jernigan, Mr. Sanders, and other leaders of this wonderful organization . . . the good news for this country is the size of this turnout. I am told that this is the largest such turnout, not only in this country but in any country. I respect that, and I congratulate each and every one of you. I am delighted to have the opportunity briefly to speak to you today about the interest which has been expressed already by the distinguished members of Congress and Senate who are here today and by the Administration . . ."

Vice President Bush then talked of the interest of the Reagan Administration in constructive programs for the blind and other groups of the disabled. He concluded by saying: "For over four decades the National Federation of the Blind has been tirelessly fighting for the rights of blind people throughout the country. You have won major victories through legislation and through litigation. These struggles will, of course, continue. It has always struck me as supremely ironic that a blind person is presently unable to sit on a jury in a federal court, even though justice itself is pictured as blind. We must work to change this kind of thing. . ."'

At the conclusion of his address Vice President Bush shook hands with President Jernigan and other Federation leaders and went back into the Capitol. Then, a dozen leading congressmen and senators were introduced. The first to speak was Senator Lowell Weicker, Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Handicapped. He said: "As never before, your strength is needed to lead this nation in a continuing commitment to all of its citizens . . . whether you're talking resources, whether you're talking commitment, or whether you're talking money—excellence will never come cheap. We need your fight. We need your voices. Together, we'll get the job done."

The next to speak was our long-time friend Senator Jennings Randolph of West Virginia, who is Vice Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Handicapped. He said: "May I, without being nostalgic, indicate to you that I was here then, and I am here now. First, I came to Capitol Hill in 1933. In 1936 the President of the United States, Franklin Roosevelt, was to sign into law the Randolph-Sheppard Act. It was in June (June 20th) when that took place. Today we are here on July the 8th. You are here (and you are going to stay here), because you have the message that's not going to be left on the doorstep, but it's going to enter the doors of every member of the Congress of the United States. Who is the disabled man or woman? The man with anger, the woman with envy in her heart. Those are the disabled in this country—the people who have malice within their beings. I like what Ken said at the beginning here today. He said: 'We do not come in anger.' You come because your cause is right. That's the reason that you are here today.

"I have no doubt that the present Chief Executive of the United States of America, Ronald Reagan, is your friend. I have no doubt of that. I have only to say to him and to all members of the present Administration: We have a right to expect you as reasonable leaders of the United States of America (not one party or the other) to do right for the blind of the United States of America.

"Franklin Roosevelt was disabled. He could not walk, but he put America on its feet in 1933 and '34. And so, without any partisanship whatsoever, I express a very genuine tribute to those in the Congress of the United States of whatever party. I believe that they will not only hear your words as they are spoken today during your meetings here in the nation's Capitol, but they will remember what you have said. Again, your cause is right. That's the reason you must prevail.

"I want to express very quietly but very earnestly my feelings about the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources. Orrin Hatch of Utah is a man in whom you can place your trust. I speak as a Democrat. He is a Republican. Lowell Weicker, the Chairman of our Subcommittee on the Handicapped, is a Republican as Orrin Hatch is a Republican. You can also believe in him in the coming months and the coming years. And bless you, you can believe in Jennings Randolph. I want you to know that."

Then, others spoke; Senator Howard Metzenbaum of Ohio, followed by Senator Dennis DeConcini of Arizona. Senator DeConcini concluded by saying: "I urge you to continue your battle. Education is the program. The reason I have participated in amendments in your behalf is because you as citizens and concerned people have educated me as your representative from Arizona and other representatatives from throughout the United States. It's up to you to keep this cause going, to keep the educational process, to demonstrate as you are today that you understand what the process is about. And you expect some results. I plan to help you achieve that."

The next to speak was Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa. Among other things, he said: "... as I have been acquainted with programs for the blind in my state of Iowa, we have had opportunities to look for waste. We couldn't find any because the management of those programs was by people of the caliber of Kenneth Jernigan. Ken Jernigan also taught me another philosophy which legislators don't often hear from people who are in advocacy roles or are in positions as administrators of state and national programs. That is that what we want to do is to be independent; that there is dignity with independence; and that the government's role ought to be one of helping people (whether they're handicapped or otherwise) have the opportunity for independence. I know that that's the same philosophy that the members of your organization, not only in Iowa but nationwide, have ..."

The next to speak was Congressman Nick J. Rahall, II of West Virginia. He said in part: "My congratulations go to Richard Porter and to Jim Gashel, as well as to all the rest of you, for the very diligent effort that each of you puts in for our nation's blind in our nation's capitol, in our state Capitols, on the local level, and in the cities. Indeed, we all share a common goal. And you've heard it mentioned here this afternoon from the Vice President of the United States—that you as blind individuals, handicapped individuals, have every right to be integrated into our American society. It is your right to be a full and active person. It is your right to have employment. You have a right to an adequate income for your work. It has often been said that America works better when America is at work. When certain segments of our society are excluded from the work force, we assume that it is because of discrimination. When the blind are excluded, it is assumed to be by accident, or the accident is ignored completely. I say to you (and I know that I am joined by my colleagues here from both the House and the Senate) that Americans without sight will no longer be kept out of mind. Legislation that you have heard referred to this afternoon concerning employment discrimination and minimum wage is certainly needed. You can expect my support and my continued efforts to work with you in these endeavors in the future. As President Franklin Roosevelt once said, 'The test of our progress is not whether we add more abundance for those who have much, it is rather that we provide enough to those who have little.' To each of you, to the leaders of your 2,500 chapters around the nation, and to the half million blind persons throughout America, I pledge my efforts to continue working with you. I commend you and your leaders on this rally this afternoon."

Then, Congressman Jim Jeffords of Vermont spoke. "President Ken, I enjoyed very much your remarks. They were right on. I would like to tell you that you have a member of Congress yourselves. That's Jim Gashel. I have worked with him, and I tell you that he is just a member as we all are ..." Congressman Jeffords continued by pledging that he would work with us to achieve our goals. The next to speak was Congressman Mario Biaggi of New York. He, too, pledged support for our cause. Then came Congressman Christopher Dodd of Connecticut.

The next to speak was Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, who was introduced by First Vice President Donald Capps. Senator Thurmond expressed strong support for our movement. Among other things, he said: "... I commend your President, Kenneth Jernigan, for organizing this rally to call attention to the special needs of our blind citizens. I am proud to note, too, that Donald Capps, President of the South Carolina affiliate, is serving your organization as First Vice President. We are proud of him, and we know you are, too . . .

"The National Federation of the Blind is an organization whose time has truly come. Its 50,000 members realize that self-help and community involvement are the best way to achieve worthwhile goals ..."

Then came Senator Spark Matsunaga of Hawaii. The spirit of his remarks can be capsulized in two sentences. He said: ". . . I’m certainly happy to be with you today because you are demonstrating to the members of the Congress that you can act as a voice for the nearly half a million blind citizens of the United States . . . I'll make a firm commitment now that for those bills in the House which have not yet been introduced in the Senate I will find as many co-sponsors as possible, and I will spearhead the introduction of them."

The final speaker was Congressman George Miller of California. He pledged his support for our overall effort and stressed, in particular, his intention to help us secure the passage of legislation guaranteeing that no blind person would be paid less than the minimum wage.

The sun beat down, and the temperature was close to 100 degrees; but the discomfort didn't matter. It was one of the greatest days in the history of the organized blind movement. After the speeches on the Capitol steps we spread out through the House and Senate office buildings to talk individually with the members of Congress. They heard and saw us, and they listened.

The frosting on the cake, so to speak, was added when President Jernigan's speech was put into the Congressional Record in both the Senate and the House. Senator Strom Thurmond spoke to the Senate as follows:

"Mr. President, today, I rise to bring to the attention of my colleagues the very real problems which blind persons face as they struggle for independence and first-class status in our country. Almost one-half million of our citizens are blind, and they are ably represented by their own national organization, the National Federation of the Blind.

"Throughout my service in Congress, it has been my privilege and honor to work closely with the National Federation of the Blind and particularly, with the outstanding leaders of the blind in South Carolina, among them, the first vice president of the National Federation of the Blind, Donald C. Capps of Columbia.

"As I have worked with these people, I have learned that one of the primary problems the blind face is one of public attitudes and lack of social acceptance. Blindness is often perceived by many as a tragedy; yet, I know from my associations with the leaders of the Federation that blindness need not become the disaster it is often thought to be. The key factors are proper training and a fair opportunity to compete.

"This, Mr. President, leads me to express my concerns on behalf of the blind of our Nation. Over the years we have passed many laws which we thought would extend benefits, services, and opportunities to the blind, but. Mr. President, we are now learning that promises sometimes have not been fulfilled. There may be many reasons for this, and although I do not have all of the answers, I do know that more money and more programs do not necessarily translate into better lives for our citizens. This is the message I have heard from the blind today.

"Mr. President, the National Federation of the Blind is currently in the midst of its 41st annual convention, and I was honored to speak at their rally today outside the Capitol. At that rally, Dr. Kenneth Jernigan, president of the National Federation of the Blind, spoke forcefully of the concerns of the blind in this country. Dr. Jernigan is an eloquent and articulate spokesman on behalf of blind Americans, and I urge all of my colleagues in the Senate to consider his thought-provoking message. In order that each may do this, Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent to have the text of the remarks by Dr. Jernigan printed in the Record."

There being no objection, the remarks were ordered to be printed in the Record.

Congressman Bill Chappel of Florida spoke to the House of Representatives as follows:

"Mr. Speaker, on July 8, 1981, Kenneth Jernigan, president of the National Federation of the Blind addressed an audience on the west side of the Capitol. In this inspiring speech he gives praise to the new era this country is entering. I believe the courage, the dignity, and the determination by which the blind of this country are facing Government cutbacks in social programs should be an inspiration and a lesson to all. For this reason, I am proudly inserting Mr. Jernigan's inspirational message in the hope that all my colleagues will be moved by the strength of character with which the blind face the challenges of the future."

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The events which are related here are hard to believe. Yet, they occurred, in painful and humiliating detail. When Michael Hingson was physically dragged off an airplane with his arm twisted behind his back, his Braille watch torn from his wrist, and his thumb bent with a possible fracture—when his dog Holland was choked and dragged off of the same plane, it is not surprising that he felt troubled and wondered whether one type of justice applied to the blind and another to the sighted.

On the morning of September 18, 1980, I was sitting in my office at the National Center for the Blind in Baltimore handling the daily routine of activities. There were letters to answer from members of the general public who wanted information about the problems of blindness; there were inquiries from throughout the country regarding available services, new aids and appliances, and the technicalities of the law; and there were all of the other comings and goings which constitute the typical day at Federation headquarters. But September 18, 1980, was not a typical day.

Somewhere during the course of it all, I received a telephone call from Mike Hingson. He was in the Los Angeles International Airport: and he had just been brutally assaulted, publicly humiliated, and physically dragged from an airplane. His only crime was the wish to have the same rights and privileges as other American citizens riding the plane. He asked for no special treatment, no reduction in fare, and no favor or symphathy. All he wanted was to pay his way and go about his business. Yet, he was treated like a common criminal.

He asked me what I advised him to do and whether the Federation could be of help. I told him to wait at the airport until I could make the necessary phone calls to find a competent local lawyer, and I assured him that we would stand with him all the way. During the next few minutes a great many things went through my mind. Why is it so many people (including some who are blind) have difficulty in understanding the significance of events like the Hingson story? How is it that the news media become excited about a small child who falls into a well or handicapped people who "bravely" climb a mountain, but remains silent and undisturbed by occurrences of the type that happened to Mike Hingson? Even though I do not use a dog guide, was I not injured and degraded by what happened to Mike Hingson? There are hundreds of agencies and organizations which claim that they provide "advocacy" for the blind. Yet, none of them became excited about the Hingson case or came forward to do anything about it—none, that is, except the National Federation of the Blind. Why? Is it because of our stand in matters like the Hingson case, that some people call us "militant and radical?" If so, what do those words mean? Is it simply that some of the so-called "unaligned" blind and many of the agencies do not want to pay the price of involvement but want to salve their conscience? Have we become a society that is so colorless that it is respectable to hold conferences and meetings and to talk a good line about dignity and human rights and self worth—just so long, that is, as we do not do anything about it? Are the agencies more concerned with their jobs and positions than the rights of the blind? Are blind people still so insecure that most of those who have "made it" are afraid to rock the boat, not realizing that every time any one of us is humiliated and degraded we all lose something and slip back a little toward the long night of inferiority and dehumanization?

As I say, all of these things (and many others) went through my mind, but they did not slow my actions. I consulted with some of the lawyers in the Federation (Marc Maurer, Jim Omvig, and others), and we found a lawyer and began the expensive process of fighting another battle to change the blind to first-class citizenship.

That was September of 1980, and it is now a year later. Pacific Southwest admitted that they were wrong and offered the magnificent settlement of one thousand dollars, not enough to cover the travel costs and telephone calls, not to mention the lawyer's fees. And what about Mike and the damage which he suffered? Was it all simply to be brushed aside and forgotten? No. The battle is long and costly and tedious, but it must be fought. There is no other way—no short cut, no bargain basement remedy, no easy solution. We are simply no longer willing to be second-class citizens, and nobody else will do the job for us. We must do it for ourselves, working together through the National Federation of the Blind.

Early in July (just as our National Convention was getting under way) we went into the federal courts in California and filed suit for more than a million dollars against Pacific Southwest Airlines. Regardless of the length or the cost of the battle we must not quit until we are victorious. Somehow we must find the money, and we must also find the human resources, which are just as important. We do not simply talk. We also act. Here is the petition which we filed in the federal courts:


1. This is an action brought pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1332, 29 U.S.C. §794 and 49 U.S.C. §1374. The Fifth through Twelfth Causes of Action are pendent to the First through Fourth Causes of Action and are also brought under diversity jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1332.

2. The acts complained of occurred principally in the Central District of California. The plaintiff is a resident of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Defendant is incorporated in the State of California, the principal place of business of defendant is within the State of California and it transacts business within the Central District of the State of California.


3. The plaintiff in this action, Michael Hingson, is, and has been throughout his whole life, blind. Aside from being blind, Hingson has no other physical or psychological handicaps.

4. Michael Hingson is a highly educated individual. He graduated cum laude from the University of California at Irvine in 1972 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Physics, with minors in Mathematics and Social Sciences. During all of his undergraduate education at the University he was on the Dean's List. In 1974, Hingson received a secondary teaching credential from the University of California at Irvine. In 1975, Michael Hingson received a Masters Degree in Physics from the University of California at Irvine with an A-minus average.

5. During his education, Michael Hingson was active in a number of programs. For example, while in high school, Hingson was a member of the Boy Scouts, became an Eagle Scout and was initiated into the Order of the Arrow. During his college education he was a program director of the campus radio station and was active in conducting research in various physics experiments.

6. During his employment history, Hingson has had sophisticated and demanding jobs. Furthermore, during such employment, Hingson has continually been required to make long trips, many of which were by commercial airline. From October 1976 through December 1977, Hingson was employed by the National Federation of the Blind. His position was research and evaluation of a reading machine produced by Kurzweil Computer Products, Inc., a subsidiary of the Xerox Corporation. As part of his duties in that position, Hingson traveled around the country setting up the machines, operating the machines and collecting data on the use of said machines. During that period of time, while employed in that position, Hingson traveled approximately 100,000 miles by commercial airliner.

7. From June 1978 through November 1978, Hingson consulted for the National Service Foundation for the Blind. From November 1978 to present, Hingson has been involved in the marketing of the Kurzweil reading machine and data entry machine and is in charge of such marketing for Canada and New England. There are nine individuals with this same responsibility throughout the country, either working for Kurzweil or with companies dealing with Kurzweil. All of the other individuals who have the same responsibilities as Hingson are sighted.

8. Since 1964, Hingson has used a guide dog named "Holland." Holland is specially trained to curl up and sit under seats on airplanes. Hingson has traveled extensively on commercial airlines and virtually all of that travel has been while accompanied by Holland. During all of his travel Hingson has never been denied boarding or passage on a commercial airliner.

9. On information and belief, plaintiff alleges that defendant Pacific Southwest Airlines ("PSA") is a California corporation, whose principal place of business is in the State of California and transacts business in the Central District of California. Plaintiff further alleges on information and belief that PSA is an interstate aircarrier certified by the Civil Aeronautics Board and Federal Aviation Administration and that it benefits from a program or activity which receives Federal financial assistance or receives such assistance under a program or activity conducted by one or more Federal Executive Agencies or by the United States Postal Service.


10. Prior to September 18, 1980, Michael Hingson made a confirmed reservation with PSA to travel on the September 1, 1980, 9:15 A.M. PSA flight from Los Angeles International Airport ("LAX") to the San Francisco Airport ("SFO"). At approximately 9:00 A.M. Hingson arrived at the PSA counter at LAX with Holland and reconfirmed his reservation on the 9:15 A.M. flight. At that time he purchased a ticket from a PSA Agent and his luggage was taken from him and forwarded to the airplane.

11. Hingson went to the gate and was informed by a PSA Agent that he was not too late for the flight. The agent stated, however, that PSA policy required that blind passengers with guide dogs must sit in bulkhead seats (i.e. those seats facing the bulkhead and not behind another row of seats). Hingson replied that such a policy was unlawful, and in any case, he would rather sit in a non-bulkhead seat.

12. At that point an individual approached the PSA Agent and stated that he did not yet have a ticket on the flight, but asked if there were still available seats. The agent replied in the affirmative and the individual then boarded the plane while Hingson was being delayed at the gate by the PSA Agent.

13. The PSA Agent then telephoned to the plane and asked whether any bulkhead seats were available. The agent informed Hingson that all six bulkhead seats were occupied and refused Hingson passage on the flight although he had a confirmed reservation. The agent then informed Hingson that he had released the airplane and it was departing LAX.

14. Hingson was given no alternative by the PSA Agent. Although he had a confirmed reservation, although there was still available seating, and although at least one other person was allowed on the flight even though he had not previously purchased a ticket, had no reservation (confirmed or unconfirmed) and arrived later than Hingson, Hingson was excluded from the flight solely because of his blindness. Although he had a ticket and a confirmed reservation, simply because no bulkhead seat was unoccupied, Hingson was refused passage on the flight. As described below, this refusal to board Hingson was arbitrary, unreasonable and unlawful.

15. Hingson then stated to the PSA Agent that he desired to travel on the next PSA night from LAX to SFO and was told by the agent that this would be provided for.

16. The next such flight was scheduled to depart at 10:15 A.M. Hingson waited in line at the gate for that flight and when the passengers were leaving the gate area for the airplane, he joined them. There was no assigned seating on the plane and Hingson, accompanied by Holland, began walking through the plane to find a seat. When Hingson reached the bulkhead seats, his further access through the airplane was barred by another PSA Agent who informed Hingson that he had to sit in a bulkhead seat. The agent stated that it was PSA's policy that blind passengers with guide dogs were required to sit in bulkhead seats. Hingson replied that he had previously traveled with Holland on flights of PSA and other airlines and he had not been confined to bulkhead seats. Hingson further stated that he did not desire to sit in a bulkhead seat and that it was unnecessary to require him to do so. Hingson stood to one side and allowed other passengers to board the plane as he discussed the matter with the PSA Agent.

17. The PSA Agent informed Hingson that he must sit in the bulkhead seat or he would be removed from the airplane.

18. Hingson explained to the PSA Agent that this requirement was in violation of state and federal laws and regulations. Moreover, he stated that for a number of reasons he did not desire to sit in a bulkhead seat and that it was unreasonable and undesirable to require him to do so. Hingson stated:

1) Holland is trained to fit under the seat in front of him;

2) It would be hazardous to have Holland sit in the bulkhead area because if there were turbulence, the guide dog could be tossed about, whereas if Holland sat under a seat, the dog and the passengers would have protection;

3) Whereas Holland could and does fit under a seat and is out of the way, a dog in the bulkhead area would interfere with foot space;

4) Hingson desired a seat which has a tray that folds down from the seat in front of him so that he could do some work—such a fold-down tray is not available in the bulkhead since a bulkhead seat requires a clip-in tray which is less convenient and requires a flight attendant to put it in and take it out; and

5) From a safety and convenience standpoint, a dog under a seat would cause less interference than one lying in the bulk-head area.

19. Hingson told the PSA Agent that he was willing to demonstrate that Holland could fit under a seat and be out of the way. The PSA Agent refused to allow Hingson to so demonstrate.

20. When Hingson refused to sit in the bulkhead seat, the PSA Agent called other individuals and instructed them to physically and forcibly eject Hingson from the airplane. These individuals, at the direction of the PSA Agent, did physically and forcibly eject Hingson. Such ejection was accomplished by at least two individuals, acting as agents of, and at the direction of PSA, who painfully twisted Hingson's left arm behind his back and physically and forcibly pushed him off the plane. In so forcibly ejecting Hingson from the airplane, Hingson's Braille watch was knocked off his wrist and broken. Furthermore, in forcibly ejecting Hingson, Hingson suffered severe pain, mental anguish, distress and embarrassment.

21. The demand that Hingson sit in a bulkhead seat or be refused passage on the flight was unreasonable for a number of reasons. As stated above, such requirement was unreasonable and unnecessary. Moreover, there is no safety function for such a requirement as evidenced by the fact that Hingson is aware from personal experience that other airlines, and PSA itself on other flights, do not have or enforce such a restriction. Whereas there is no reasonable basis or necessity for such a requirement, the action of PSA in physically ejecting Hingson from the flight was unreasonable and unlawful.

22. Upon being ejected from the airplane, Hingson stated to the PSA Agent that he regretted that the event had occurred but that PSA had acted in an illegal and unreasonable manner.

23. Hingson then returned to the PSA counter where he was informed by a PSA Agent that he would not be allowed to fly on a PSA flight that day, and that if he flew in the future on PSA with his guide dog, he would have to sit in a bulkhead seat or be refused passage.

24. After being excluded from the PSA flight, Hingson obtained a reservation on an 8:00 P.M. Western Airlines flight to SFO from LAX. Upon purchasing a ticket for the flight he stated that he desired a non-smoking, non-bulkhead seat. His request was granted. When Hingson boarded the airplane, he sat in a non-bulkhead seat with Holland under the seat in front of him. There was no objection of any kind from any agent or employee of Western Airlines. Moreover, he informed a Western flight attendant of the incident with PSA that day and was informed by the flight attendant that Western Airlines had no such policies or requirements.


25. Hingson was traveling to San Francisco for the purpose of representing his employer at a meeting of the American Association of Workers for the Blind in order to demonstrate the reading machine and to discuss the data entry machine as a Braille production device. The convention was scheduled for and took place on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, September 18, 19, and 20, 1980.

26. On Thursday, September 18, 1980, Hingson was scheduled to meet with a group of individuals from Washington State to demonstrate and discuss the data entry system. Because he was refused passage on the PSA flight, he was unable to meet with the group of individuals from Washington State and he lost the opportunity to demonstrate and discuss the machine. This machine, which he hoped to sell to the group, retails for approximately $85,000. The sale of the machine would have resulted in a commission of approximately $1,700 to Hingson. Moreover, this lost sale decreased his overall sales for the year and thus reduced his annual bonus.

27. Hingson 's hand and wrist were in pain due to his ejection from the airplane. Hingson sought and received medical assistance for such pain in San Francisco.

28. Hingson's Braille watch was broken during the ejection from the airplane. Hingson purchased a new Braille watch in San Francisco.

29. Hingson's ability to fulfill the duties of his employment were hampered by the refused passage by PSA and this interfered with the relations between Hingson and his employer.

30. By reason of the wrongful acts of PSA described herein, plaintiff was placed in great fear for his physical well being.

31. By reason of the wrongful acts of PSA and of the fright caused plaintiff, plaintiff has suffered extreme and severe mental anguish and physical pain and has been injured as herein described all to plaintiff's damage.

32. By reason of the wrongful acts of PSA, plaintiff has suffered great damage to his reputation and embarrassment in his community all to his damage.

33. By reason of the wrongful acts of PSA, plaintiff was required to and did employ physicians to examine, treat, and care for him and incurred additional medical expenses in an amount which has not yet been ascertained.

34. By reason of the wrongful acts of PSA, plaintiff was prevented from attending to his usual profession of marketing manager and thereby lost earnings.

35. The acts of PSA described herein were willful, wanton, malicious, and oppressive and justify the awarding of exemplary and punitive damages.

(Violation of 29 U.S.C. §794)

36. The allegations made in paragraphs 1 through 35 above are incorporated herein by reference.

37. The actions of PSA in denying Hingson passage on the 9:15 A.M. flight violated Title 29 United States Code Section 794 in that solely because of his blindness, PSA denied Michael Hingson the benefit of, or subjected him to discrimination under one or more programs or activities receiving Federal financial assistance or under one or more programs or activities conducted by a Federal Executive Agency or by the United States Postal Service.

(Violation of 29 U.S.C. §794)

38. The allegations made in paragraphs 1 through 35 above are incorporated herein by reference.

39. The actions of PSA in physically ejecting Hingson from the 10:15 A.M. night, violated Title 29 United States Code Section 794 in that solely because of his blindness, PSA denied Michael Hingson the benefit of, or subjected him to discrimination under one or more programs or activities receiving Federal financial assistance or under one or more programs or activities conducted by a Federal Executive Agency or by the United States Postal Service.

(Violation of 49 U.S.C. §1374 [a] [1])

40. The allegations made in paragraphs 1 through 35 above are incorporated herein by reference.

41. The actions of PSA in denying Hingson passage on the 9:15 A.M. flight, violated Title 49 of the United States Code Section 1374 [a] [1] in that PSA failed to provide air transportation, as authorized by its certificate, to Michael Hingson upon his reasonable request therefore and failed to establish, observe and enforce just and reasonable classifications, rules, regulations and practices relating to such air transportation.

(Violation of 49 U.S.C. §1374 [a] [1])

42. The allegations made in paragraphs 1 through 35 above are incorporated herein by reference.

43. The actions of PSA, in physically ejecting Hingson from the 10; 15 A.M. flight, violated Title 49 United States Code Section 1374 [a] [1] in that PSA failed to provide air transportation, as authorized by its certificate, to Michael Hingson upon his reasonable request therefore and failed to establish, observe and enforce just and reasonable classifications, rules, regulations and practices relating to such air transportation.

(Violation of California Civil Code §54.1)

44. The allegations made in paragraphs 1 through 35 above are incorporated herein by reference.

45. The actions of PSA, in denying Hingson passage on the 9:15 A.M. flight, violated California Code Section 54.1 in that PSA, because of plaintiff's blindness, failed to provide plaintiff full and equal access, as to other members of the general public, to accommodations, advantages, facilities or privileges of a common carrier or airplane.

(Violation of California Civil Code §54.1)

46. The allegations made in paragraphs 1 through 35 above are incorporated herein by reference.

47. The actions of PSA, in physically ejecting Hingson from the 10:15 A.M. flight violated California Civil Code Section 54.1 in that PSA, because of plaintiffs blindness, failed to provide plaintiff full and equal access, as to other members of the general public, to accommodations, advantages, facilities or privileges of a common carrier or airplane.

(Violation of California Public Utilities Code §494)

48. The allegations made in paragraphs 1 through 35 above are incorporated herein by reference.

49. The actions of PSA, in denying Hingson passage on the 9:15 A.M. flight, violated California Public Utilities Code Section 494 in that PSA failed to extend to plaintiff privileges and facilities as are regularly and uniformly extended to all other persons.

(Violation of California Public Utilities Code §494)

50. The allegations made in paragraphs 1 through 35 above are incorporated herein by reference.

51. The actions of PSA, in physically ejecting Hingson from the 10:15 A.M. flight, violated California Public Utilities Code Section 494 in that PSA failed to extend to plaintiff privileges and facilities as are regularly and uniformly extended to all other persons.

(Violation of California Civil Code §2188)

52. The allegations made in paragraphs 1 through 35 above are incorporated herein by reference.

53. The actions of PSA described here-in constitute a violation of California Civil Code Section 2188 in that PSA used excessive and unnecessary force and violence in ejecting plaintiff from the airplane.

(Assault and Battery)

54. The allegations made in paragraphs 1 through 35 above are incorporated herein by reference.

55. The actions of PSA described herein constitute the tort of assault and battery on plaintiff by PSA in that PSA willfully and unlawfully assaulted and battered the plaintiff.

(Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress)

56. The allegations made in paragraphs 1 through 35 above are incorporated herein by reference.

57. The actions of PSA described herein constitute the tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress in that said acts were intentional and malicious and were done by PSA for the purpose of causing plaintiff to suffer humiliation, mental anguish, and emotional and physical distress.

(False Imprisonment)

58. The allegations made in paragraphs 1 through 35 above are incorporated herein by reference.

59. The actions of PSA described herein constitute the tort of false imprisonment in that PSA intentionally restrained and confined plaintiffs person without lawful privilege for an appreciable length of time.

WHEREFORE, plaintiff prays for an injunction against defendant that defendant be required to allow plaintiff and his guide dog to sit and occupy non-bulkhead seats on any PSA flights on which plaintiff is or will be traveling; and plaintiff further prays for recovery as follows:

1. Recovery of special damages in excess of $10,000 according to the proof at the trial;

2. General damages in excess of $100,000 according to the proof at the trial;

3. Punitive damages in excess of 51,000,000.00 according to the proof at the trial;

4. Attorneys' fees in an amount to be determined according to the proof at the trial;

5. The costs of suit incurred herein; and

6. For such other and further relief as this Court may deem just and proper.

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There are still people (some of them blind) who tell me that they do not understand why we need a National Federation of the Blind. "After all," some of them say, "there are no real discriminations against blind people. I have made it—and all on my own. Besides, there are rehabilitation and other agencies for the specialized needs of the blind, so what is all of the fuss about?"

The answer comes in many forms—sometimes subtle, sometimes blatant. It can deal with employment, a social situation or the right to be considered for a part in a play.

The Federation involves all of us who are blind—the old, the young; the members, the non-members; the knowledgeable, the unaware; the obtuse and the sensitive. It affects our lives. It increases our opportunities. It educates the public, and gradually (ever so gradually) it erodes the ancient stereotypes and creates a new image.

The letters that cross my desk by the hundreds each month tell the story of the change in climate. We are not there. Far from it.

We are leaving the past behind us, but the road still stretches to the distant future, years and decades ahead. In the meantime, we live in the present. We must, with such resources as we possess, meet each challenge and fight each battle as it comes. Each incident must be seen for its own merit, but it also must be viewed in perspective as part of the evolving pattern.

Recently I received a letter which gives emphasis to all of this. How shall I answer? Does it matter? Has she contributed to the situation by her own past actions, or lack of action? What about the rest of us? Even if we do not know her, how much has our own past level of commitment contributed to the climate which now creates the problem? And regardless of all this, what (if anything) can be done to help—not in the past or the future—but now? How will what we do (or fail to do) affect this woman's attitudes and future prospects—and, for that matter, the attitudes and prospects of other blind people; many of them young, many still children?

The Federation cannot solve (or even try to solve) all of the problems affecting the blind. Its money and manpower are a veritable drop in the social bucket; and (more often than not) many of those who could do most to help simply do not. Therefore, we prioritize. By doing one thing we necessarily decide that we will not do another. Sometimes we doubtless make the wrong decisions. Neverthless, our progress and our strength continue to grow. All of which brings me back to the letter I received from the woman in California, and the question of what to do about it:

Fullerton, California
July 3, 1981

To the National Federation for the Blind

As a student of Fullerton College in Fullerton, California and a person attempting to secure rehabilitation in a direction of the live Theatre Arts, I auditioned as a student, for a Fullerton College Theatre Production with the three casting directors aware of my legal blindness. Out of over 150 persons auditioning I was raved upon for my talent and cast in the No. 1 female lead position (Golda in "Fiddler on the Roof"). I am only partially sighted and would be able to play the part without any audience being aware of my handicap.

After three actual days of rehearsal with the directors (actually 3½ hours of work with them) they decided because I could not see the music director in the orchestra pit, that I would not be able to perform satisfactorily. I assured them in that I have over 300 performances to my credit, that I could overcome that problem by knowing my material for the performance. They then indicated that I could not read my material quickly enough to keep the pace of the show going. In that I was released on Monday and had not had a working rehearsal since Friday. On Monday my material was totally memorized but they would not give me the chance to show them. It was never indicated that if I couldn't function Uke a sighted person that I would be dropped. Once again, they were aware of my blindness and selected me for my talent and the fact that I physically fit the character.

This has been a very discouraging experience for me as well as humiliating. I have the talent and the ability they wanted when they cast me. But they decided a sighted person would be easier to work with.

Do I have any rights? To my rehabilitation, education, social recreation, that would be valid?

I feel very discriminated against and will never have the confidence to try to compete with the sighted again.

If nothing else—can we not find a way to educate the educators of the handicaps' rights to be people with feelings too?

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Dear Sir:

As a partial visually handicapped individual I would like to voice my complaints about the conditions existing for blind individuals.

Travel in this day and age is becoming an extremely frustrating and aggravating problem. The exodus of the mercantile and grocery stores from center city to the outlying suburbs where they can accommodate cars is a tremendous problem with which to contend.

Mass transportation was expected to be the mode of transportation of the future but as you can see, due to the strikes which occur almost annually this is causing loss of ridership and cuts in bus schedules, making it necessary for a person to wait 45 to 50 minutes for a bus, and weekends having no public transportation whatsoever.

I feel it is your responsibility as a National Organization to put forth all your efforts in alleviating this situation. As the elderly as well as the handicapped are faced with this problem, I feel we should band together to establish some sort of clout to have the auto industry develop a computerized car which we could utilize. I had heard several years ago that this was feasible but as with everything else, if you don't have the right people lobbying for something you won't get it.

If mass transportation continues to decline, we will be in a position where the handicapped and elderly will be prisoners in their own homes and extremely dependent upon others for help.

I'm sure you can appreciate this situation is extremely frustrating and humiliating to become continually dependent on others for help. I wish you would give our dilema a great deal of thought and arrive at a suitable solution.

Very truly yours,


Baltimore, Maryland
August 3, 1981

Dear Mrs. ___________:

I have your letter of July 9, 1981, and I agree with you that transportation is a problem for the blind. However, when you tell me that it is the responsibility of the National Federation of the Blind to do something about it, I think it is fair to ask you some questions. Who is the National Federation of the Blind? Are you a member? If not, why not? Is it any more my responsibility than yours? Do you contribute financially and otherwise to the Federation? If not, where do you expect the organization to get the resources to do the things you think it ought to do? If you are a member, why do you not refer to the organization as "we" rather than "you?"

I agree with you that something should be done about transportation for the blind and I intend to do all that I can to make it better. I hope that you are part of the Federation and that you are doing the same.

Very truly yours,

Kenneth Jernigan, President
National Federation of the Blind

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Hartselle, Alabama
July 7, 1981

Dear Mr. Jernigan:

The only reason I am writing this letter, is that it might inspire other blind people to understand that they can be just about anything they want to be.

Several years ago I did a half hour talk show on radio station WRSA-FM near Huntsville, Alabama. I was scheduled to interview a young man, Wayne Lowery, age 23, blind from birth who had just graduated from Athens College in Athens, Alabama, at that time a Methodist college. During the interview I asked Wayne what lie wanted to do, career wise. I wasn't prepared for his answer. He said, "I want to be a radio announcer." The first thought that came to my mind was, no way! I thought, doesn't this man know you have to read meters, cue up long play records, read the labels on a hundred cartridges, know how and be able to see 25 or 30 different switches and knobs and their uses. Be able to read the weather forecasts, see the clock, and on and on. No way, I thought. But, I had another thought coming. I didn't take into consideration this young man's determination and his faith.

The only answer that I have to what happened after that is that it was the Lord's will.

I am a 56 year old bachelor. At the time I lived in a mobile home not far from the radio station. I worked at the radio station from 6 P.M. until midnight.

We worked things out and Wayne came and lived with me. He went to work with me and I trained him on my shift.

At this particular radio station all the music was album music or LP's. We worked from a play list, different each day. For example, the list would start out album No. 25, side 2, cut three. That really worried me. How could Wayne find Album No. 25 let alone play side 2 cut 3? Simple, says Wayne. Number the albums in Braille, put them in sequence in a bin where I can reach them. Always put the record back in the jacket with side one facing me. Put the play list in Braille and I’m in business. Maybe, I thought, but doesn't he know he's only going to have about 2½ minutes to find his record, put it on the turntable, and find the right cut and cue it up? I might explain this cueing business. A cardinal rule in radio is that you must not have any dead air. So when you start your record it must begin to play immediately. So you "cue" it up by listening to a studio monitor not heard by the audience. You place the needle right before the music starts.

This cueing operation takes time, especially when you're using long play records, because you must count to which cut you want, then begin cueing it. I thought, how will Wayne be able to count the number of cuts on any given side?

Well, Wayne would put the record on the turntable, (by the way, this sounds simple to sighted people, but when you're new and blind too it's not as simple as it sounds). Then he would spin the record with one hand, touch the needle to the record with his other hand and "counting" the cuts he began to learn to cue the records.

Then came the problem of reading the meters. At that time we had to read the meters every half hour on various pieces of radio equipment. We learned that a company in New Jersey manufactured a piece of equipment that read the meters by sound tones, especially for blind people. We were able to acquire this device and that settled the meter reading.

At that time radio announcers had to pass a third class license examination given by the Federal Communications Commission. And you had to go to Atlanta to take the exam. It was tough when I took it and I worried some about Wayne passing it. But we crammed for it and he took the exam orally by special arrangement . . . and passed it. Wayne trained with me for about six months and lived with me for about one year.

After the six months training period Wayne began his own shift. He started working on his own from midnight until 6 A.M. That was a little over three years ago and the other night before I went to sleep I tuned in to hear Wayne give the latest forecast. Wayne has a room above the radio station. He has a refrigerator and facilities to prepare some of his own meals. His mother picks up and does his laundry.

Now, I have moved to another radio station in the area. And I often think of what Wayne said when I would ask him what he wanted to do with his career. He would say, "I would like to have Wolfman Jack's job!" And you know, it wouldn't surprise me a bit if he did just that. Cause the Lord and Wayne made a believer out of me.


J. A. Moats

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Assembly Bill 1803 was introduced into the California legislature by Assemblyman Don Rogers of Bakersfield at the request of the National Federation of the Blind, Western Division. AB 1803 passed the Assembly Finance, Insurance, and Commerce Committee by a vote of 15 to 0 and later unanimously passed the California State Assembly. At the time of this writing, AB 1803 is set for hearing before the Senate Insurance and Indemnity Committee. Affiliates interested in copies of this legislation may contact Sharon Gold, President, National Federation of the Blind, Western Division, P. O. Box 1522, Lancaster, CA, 93539.

Sharon's testimony was given May 12, 1981:

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Assembly Finance, Insurance, and Commerce Committee:

My name is Sharon Gold and I am the President of the National Federation of the Blind, Western Division, the California affiliate of the National Federation of the Blind. I am here today concerning Assembly Bill 1803 which was introduced by Assemblyman Don Rogers.

The purpose of Assembly Bill 1803 is to prohibit insurance companies from discriminating against blind persons who own motor vehicles and therefore must purchase motor vehicle insurance. At the present time, many insurance carriers refuse to sell motor vehicle insurance to blind persons because we cannot operate the vehicles we own.

Blind persons, like sighted persons, own automobiles and other motor vehicles to carry out our day to day activities. Because of the physical characteristic of blindness which makes us unable to pass the visual portion of the operator's test, we must rely upon our sighted colleagues to operate our motor vehicles.

Currently, many companies deny us the privilege of purchasing motor vehicle insurance because we cannot be licensed and personally serve as the operator of our vehicles. This requirement has caused newly blinded persons, who owned and operated motor vehicles as sighted persons, to sell their vehicles when keeping these vehicles and obtaining a driver would have been a convenience. This requirement has kept some blind persons from being employed when the employment has necessitated the use of an automobile. This requirement has kept other blind persons from "car pooling" to work because of the inability to supply a vehicle to the car pool. Further, the requirement of an owner being the operator has even caused some blind persons to give away partial ownership of their vehicle in order to obtain insurance.

Denying blind persons the privilege of purchasing motor vehicle insurance is unfair and unnecessary and is discriminatory against citizens who happen to be blind.

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(Note: The following article is reprinted from the Sunday, May 24. 1981, Chicago Tribune. It points up a problem and stimulates thought. If Mr. Franson is correctly quoted, it is not hard to understand why he failed. His dismissal will reinforce the public stereo-type—and probably his own. Hundreds of blind teachers are handling discipline in the classroom every day as a matter of ordinary routine.

Yet, some blind people have still not learned self-confidence and belief. It is probably not by chance that Mr. Franson's name does not appear on the membership list of the National Federation of the Blind. His attitude about the organized blind movement would be amusing if it were not so pathetic and so damaging—not only to public understanding but also to Mr. Franson himself. In his experience we read in miniature the story of where we have been, what we are leaving behind us, and the problems we still must overcome.

Mr. Franson would doubtless not understand all this. In fact, he would probably feel that we are the ones who do not understand. Certainly the school board and the other officials do not understand, and neither does the author of the newspaper article. It is not viciousness or meanness which confront us, but ignorance and total misconception. This article provides one more answer to the question: Why the National Federation of the Blind?)

GENOA, Ill.—Bruce Franson, a science teacher at the high school in this tiny rural community 60 miles northwest of Chicago, is being fired at the end of the school year because he is legally blind.

The district school board apparently has determined that Franson, 26, who has taught at Genoa-Kingston High School for the last two years, is unable to handle the full range of teaching duties and feels it cannot afford to continue to provide Franson's classes with a teacher's aide.

Verl Groth, president of the board, says Franson's dismissal was "a personnel matter on which I'm not at liberty to make a comment." But, he concedes that with the district facing a deficit budget next year, the approximate $4,700 it costs to provide Franson with a teacher's aide "could have had something to do with it."

Ray Morelli, the school principal, says that Franson, who can read at extremely close range with thick glasses and can distinguish shapes at a distance, was unable to prevent students from cheating or misbehaving.

"If there was any error, it was my judgment that the students were mature enough to handle it," says Morelli, who hired Franson as the school's sole chemistry and physics teacher and considers him an outstanding teacher. "In fact, I thought it would be a great exposure for them. But to the younger, more immature students, having a teacher who couldn't see just meant it was free time for them."

Morelli says that on a few occasions, Franson was the subject of pranks and abuse which took advantage of his blindness—like putting chalkmarks on his clothes—although neither he nor Franson feel that was a major problem.

"He's a brilliant guy, a guy I have total respect for," Morelli says. "But, the only way he can handle discipline is when the kids are old enough to respect what he has to offer."

Franson has accepted his firing, refusing to climb on the bandwagon for the rights of the handicapped.

"I'm just not the type to shout, 'Discrimination!  Discrimination!'"  Franson says, striding through the school corridors at a brisk pace that belies his blindness. "I don't want sympathy. I want to stand on my own two feet. I'm not a member of any blind groups. I look down on that.

"You have to earn people's respect. You can't force it down their throats. Making a stink would just hurt me more. Who would want to hire a troublemaker?"

Still, Franson believes he was discriminated against. He admits he had some problems his first year, but says they were only slightly worse than those that plague most first-year teachers.

"Students will take advantage until they get to know you," Franson says. "They'll never behave out of sympathy—only out of understanding and respect-and that takes a little time. Once the kids got to know me, we've had a good relationship."

But, he says, Genoa is a typical small town, and word about the problems he did have spread quickly through the community. Minds were made up very early, he says, and nobody bothered to check on the drastically improved situation in his classroom, especially with the presence of teacher aides this year.

Sue Appleby, one of the teacher's aides, says discipline has not been a problem since she and another aide began assisting Franson.

More than anything else, one incident during Franson's first year may have contributed to his dismissal. A small fire broke out in his classroom one day after school when Franson opened a bottle of kerosene. Franson says that the fire was the result of bad kerosene and not his fault, pointing proudly to his perfect record in classroom safety.

"It would have happened exactly the same with the sighted person," he says, but he realizes the fire gave the skeptics all the ammunition they needed.

"I believe Bruce when he says it wasn't his fault," Morelli says. "I hope that wasn't much of a factor m the board's decision."

Whatever precipitated the decision, it leaves the graduate of Homewood-Flossmoor High School in 1973 and Illinois State University in 1977 in a precarious financial position. He supports himself and his wife of four years, who is totally blind, on his teaching salary.

"I'm blind enough so I can't hold my job or a lot of other jobs, but not blind enough to get state aid," he says. "I guess, they want me to go to work in a shoe factory. Not that I'm above that, but I'd sure like to do something where I can apply what I've learned.

"Teaching is really what I want to do. It's so exciting to work with students because they always keep you fresh and give you a new way to look at your subject matter."

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Dear Editor:

Please publish this recipe in the Braille Monitor. It came from my girlfriend, Lucky, who lives in Monticello, Minnesota. It has been tried twice.


(Note: Susan Blumer is a Federationist on the Minnesota chapter's calling committee, calling for meetings, and so on.)


½ cup butter
½ cup sugar
½ cup brown sugar
1 egg
½ cup peanut butter
½ teaspoon soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup rolled oats
1 6 oz. pkg. chocolate chips
½ cup powdered sugar
3 tablespoons milk
¼ cup peanut butter

Cream butter and sugar. Blend in one egg, ½ cup peanut butter, soda, salt, and vanilla. Stir in flour and rolled oats. Pat mixture into 9 by 13-inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Sprinkle the chips over the top and return to oven, till melted. Mix the powdered sugar, milk, and peanut butter. Spread over the top of chips and cut into bars.

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From Ellen R. Robertson:
The officers of the Human Services Division are:

President: Arie Gamliel
First Vice President: Nadine Jacobson
Second Vice President: David Stayer
Treasurer: Stewart Prost
Secretary: Ellen R. Robertson

The Human Services Division is in the process of writing up its constitution.

From David Swerdlow:

Attention: Blind players and singers in the greater New York area! ... We are now twenty seasons old! The Elbee Audio Players, an independent troupe of blind and sighted amateur repertory players, invites you to join us. A fascinating season of exciting drama and popular musicals awaits you. We use a radio format style (plays and musicals to be heard instead of seen.) No memorizing of lines is required. . . You should be a competent Braille reader and be able to travel independently . . . Rehearsals, usually one evening a week . . . Performances, usually twenty a season from October to June ... If you love drama and song as we do—why not join Elbee—our mobile, portable theater for the blind and sighted . . . Interested? Please call or write, David Swerdlow, 621 West End Avenue, New York, NY 10024 or call, TRafalgar 4-5704.

From Mary Main:

June 20, 1981, the following officers for the Stamford Area Chapter were elected:

Keith Perrin, President
Dorothy Henry, Vice President
Jean Garofola, Treasurer
Florence Brown, Recording Secretary
Mary Main, Corresponding Secretary

From Mrs. Beatrice P. Simonds:

The Governor's Advisory Council on the Blind had prepared and introduced in the Delaware General Assembly Senate Bill 187, as amended. This Bill passed both Houses and, on June 23, 1981, Governor Pierre S. du Pont, IV signed the Bill, making it a law on this date.

This legislation is what one might call a "Little Randolph Sheppard Act," because it is based on the Federal Law. It requires that priority consideration be given to the blind and the visually impaired in the establishment and operation of food service facilities on property owned and leased by the State of Delaware. It will strengthen Delaware's commitment to develop employment opportunities for the blind and visually impaired of this State.

As a further item of information, which may be of interest to you and the Monitor's readers, I am pleased to report that the State Librarian for Delaware has advised me that library services for the blind and handicapped will remain in this State and will not be transferred to New Jersey or any other State.

Regarding Delaware Library:

Earlier this year it appeared that Delaware would lose its library for the blind and that a contract would be made with the State of New Jersey to provide library services to the blind of Delaware. This would have placed an extra strain upon the New Jersey librarian and would likely have lessened the quality of library services for the blind of Delaware. Federationists were active in resisting this development, and it now appears that will not occur. In a letter dated July 15, 1981, Mr. Frank Kurt Cylke, Director, National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped, says:

"The situation appears to be well on the way to being resolved, and the service will not be removed from the state."

From the Retinitis Pigmentosa Foundation, 8331 Mindale Circle, Baltimore, MD 21207:

The National Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) Foundation will host a national Conference, "A Decade Toward Discovery," for volunteers and service professionals at Baltimore's new Hyatt Regency Inner Harbor hotel on November 11, 12, and 13, 1981.

Drawing together individuals involved in services and programs for the visually handicapped, the 3-day Conference features a series of workshops, research presentations, exhibits and films.

From Helen Keller International:

Harold G. Roberts, Executive Director, Helen Keller International, New York, died suddenly on June 13 at his home in Brookfield, Connecticut. He was 64 years old.

From Braille, Inc., 44 Scranton Avenue, Falmouth, Massachusetts 02540:

Braille Inc. is inaugurating the first private Braille book rental library in the United States (and possibly in the world). There are, as you know, a number of public Braille book lending institutions, the largest being the National Library Service with its regional libraries. Those libraries are volunteer-based and, consequently their service is often slow and the variety of current reading material offered is limited, and a blind reader often must wait many months before receiving a requested book. The National Library Service is reluctant to transcribe current books which use "inappropriate language." The result is that many excellent modern literary works have not been available to the blind.

Although Braille Inc. cannot publish each new book title that appears in the literary marketplace every month, we try to choose the best and potentially most popular current fiction and non-fiction books, with the specific purpose of offering a wide selection to our readers. For example, John Cheever is a major United States author. Braille Inc. published his Pulitzer Prize winning Stories of John Cheever shortly before he received that award. We published his book Falconer a few weeks after publication of the inkprint edition. Although Falconer is a novel of importance, it is a story about a man in prison in which the language is realistically coarse and is the kind of novel that volunteer-based organizations are reluctant to transcribe.

Braille Inc. is a professional Braille publisher. We are often able to produce Braille transcriptions of new novels when they are placed on the "best-seller" lists, so that our blind clients can read them when their sighted friends are reading the inkprint edition. If you would like further information, please write us. Since we are limiting our initial membership, an early response will help to assure that you will be included.

From Paul deMendonca:

The Massachusetts affiliate of the National Federation of the Blind will be meeting for its 28th Annual Convention the weekend of October 9, 10, and 11, 1981 at the Rhodeway Inn and Conference Center, 296 Burnett Road, Chicopee, MA 01020. Dianne McGeorge, our national representative, will be delivering the banquet address on Saturday evening. We are inviting all Federationists to attend what promises to be the biggest and best state convention ever held in Massachusetts. For hotel reservation information contact Convention Committee Chairperson: Mrs. Priscilla Ferris, 55 Delaware Avenue, Somerset, MA 02726 or phone (617) 673-0218.

From F. H. Russell:

Recordings for VIP's tape records Barons Business and Financial Weekly for visually impaired people and circulates it without charge. If you are interested in business, finance, the stock market, and would like to read this weekly magazine, please write:

Recordings for VIP's
2000 Coral Gate Drive
Miami, FL 33145

Currently, the magazine is produced on open reel tape. Cassette copies may be possible.

From Hazel Staley:

I was delighted to read in the March-April issue of the Braille Monitor that Mr. Jim Schaffer of Austin, Texas, had shown his dog in the AKC Obedience Trials. I showed my Doberman Pinscher, Fritz (seven months old at the time), in the obedience trials last December. He won second place. The first place winner belonged to a person who works with dogs professionally; so I thought Fritz did rather well against such competition.

I can corroborate completely Mr. Schaffer's remarks about AKC's attitude toward and handling of handicapped persons. I was treated no differently from other participants and was judged by the same standards. They were judging my dog, not me, which was a good thing because he wasn't nearly as nervous as I was.

From Florence Blume:

The friends of Milford and Jeanette Force held a dinner in their honor in Newark to benefit the NFB of New Jersey, June 27, 1981. The Forces (long time leaders in New Jersey) will soon be retiring and moving to North Carolina.

Al Harris, President of NFB of Michigan and newly elected member of the National Board, sends us the following news release from Lansing:

Lansing-The Michigan Court of Appeals Wednesday ruled health and exercise clubs cannot deny membership to blind persons.

The judges overturned a Washtenaw County Circuit Court ruling that said the Vic Tanny club in Ann Arbor was justified in banning the blind on safety grounds.

The appeals court said the law banning discrimination in public accommodations contains no safety exceptions. 

From President Jernigan:

Audrey Tait, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Nevada, writes as follows:

"I am sorry to advise you of the death of our friend and loyal Federationist, K. O. Knudson. He passed away April 11th in Las Vegas."

Audrey's letter called up many memories. I first met K. O. Knudson in the mid-50's. He stood up to be counted at the 1958 convention at Boston when the movement was torn by strife and civil war. He has been to most of the conventions since. He was a true friend and a thoroughly dedicated Federationist. He was also a man of prominence in his state and community: County Superintendent of Schools, high official in the Masons, and recognized leader in many fields. He led a long, full, and productive life.

From the Greater Brockton Chapter:

Our officers for the coming year are:

President: Martel Silba
Vice President: Jalil Mortazavi
Secretary: Donna Silba
Treasurer: Douglas Campbell
Sargent at Arms: David Holden

From the Jewish Braille Institute:

The Jewish Braille Institute of America is pleased to announce the Eleventh International Literary Competition for Blind Writers. We welcome entries by blind writers of all races, creeds and nations throughout the world in fiction, non-fiction and poetry according to the following rules:

1. All entries must be received by February 28, 1982.

2. All entries must be typed in English, double-spaced. In the event that there is a problem in having the manuscript translated into English, please contact the Jewish Braille Institute of America, 110 E. 30th Street, New York, NY 10016, U.S.A. for advice. Please do not submit any manuscript that has not been translated to English.

3. Prose entries in fiction may be short stories or other forms of fictionalized writing of no more than 6500 words.

4. Prose entries in non-fiction shall be related to some aspect of economics, social, health, environmental or welfare interest concerning the world, or a nation, society or a local community. An entry may, but need not, relate to blindness and the condition of the blind. Entries may be no more than 6500 words.

5. Poetry entries may not exceed three double-spaced typed 8½ “x11” pages in length.

6. Nine thousand dollars will be awarded in prizes as follows:

First prize in each category, $1,500.
Second prize in each category, $750.
Third prize in each category, $500.
Honorable mention in each category, $250.

Entries from previous competitions have been received from many nations throughout the world.

From Jean Wagner:

The new officers of the NFB of Vanderburgh Country are as follows:

President: Karen Reynolds
First Vice President: Mary Hoppenstedt
Second Vice President: Tom Bozikis
Secretary: Rosalie Lashbrook
Treasurer: Norma Angel
Associate Secretary: Jean Wagner

From Gintautaus Burba, 30 Snell Street, Brockton, MA 02401:

The United States Braille Chess Association, (USBCA) began the 1981 Championship games starting in July.

We have our (Castle) chess magazine in Braille, but now are in the process of putting it on cassette. Also, we meet once a year to play over-the-board games.

Also, a team has been entered in the Postal Chess Olympics. Correspondence will be welcome from anyone interested in Chess.

From Betty Bator:

The officers and board members of Mid-Hudson Chapter are as follows:

President: Betty Bator
First Vice President: Ellen Robertson
Second Vice President: Doris Saintomas
Secretary: Peggy Hignell
Treasurer: Edward Blodgett
Board Member: Lucy Carpenter
Board Member: Edward Matthews

They will serve a two-year term.

From Jerry Whittle:

All persons who are interested in forming a Federation Literary Magazine should write to:

Jerry Whittle
3819 Hickory Street
Columbia, SC 29205

This magazine could feature fiction and essay type material by Federationists.

The American Printing House for the Blind, 1839 Frankfort Avenue, Louisville, KY 40206, announces that it is now marketing a Tactile Graphics Kit. The Printing House says:

"The Tactile Graphics Kit features all the necessary apparatus for constructing raised drawings. It contains an array of specially designed tools for embossing on aluminum sheets seven kinds of lines, seven point symbols or shapes, and four areal patterns. It includes 30 eleven inch square foil sheets and a guidebook.

Teachers and transcribers can emboss mathematic, scientific or geographic diagrams for their blind students. The aluminum diagrams can serve as masters for vacuumform copies."

The 1981 national convention gave emphasis to the fact that this is the decade of the baby. Three announcements were made: Ray and Bernice Lowder of Baltimore had a boy (their second) late in June. Ray is past president of the Baltimore Chapter. Jim and Barbara Walker (Jim is President in Nebraska, and Barbara is a past president) were unable to come to the Convention because of the birth of their daughter Marsha JoAnne July 2. The Milton Taylors (Milton is President in Utah) were unable to come to the Convention because of the birth of a son July 1. The Federation continues to expand.

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The policies of the National Federation of the Blind are determined by the resolutions passed at annual conventions. In 1981 fourteen resolutions were passed. They are here reprinted. One resolution (81-13) was withdrawn after we received assurances from Mr. Paul B. Simmons, the Deputy Commissioner for External Affairs of the Social Security Administration, that its provisions would be implemented. Federation resolutions may come to the convention floor through the Resolutions Committee or through the Board of Directors. Any member of the organization may present a resolution to the Resolutions Committee. The Committee may not refuse to bring the resolution to the convention floor.

This year almost the entire day of Friday, July 10, was spent on resolutions and other Federation business. Even so, time ran out, and it was agreed that some resolutions would be put over until next year. It would appear that still more time must be allowed for debate and consideration of resolutions at next year's convention. The resolutions which were adopted are:

Resolution 81-00: brings to the attention of the television networks the fact that more verbal coverage needs to be given to accompany the pictures on the screen—news, sports, etc.

Resolution 81-B-01: This resolution was brought to the convention floor by the Board of Directors. Even though there was throughout the country a great deal of local radio and television coverage, as well as coverage by radio networks, the television networks did an inadequate and unsatisfactory job. 81-B-01 calls on the television networks to reassess their attitudes toward blindness and the blind and to recognize the newsworthiness of our status as a minority and our struggle for first-class citizenship.

Resolution 81-01: This was certainly one of the most important resolutions discussed at the convention. After full debate, it was overwhelmingly adopted. It restates our policy of selectively supporting and opposing agencies on the basis of their merit. It is particularly timely in view of the current reassessment of government programs and social attitudes.

Resolution 81-02: seeks changes in policies and activities of National Industries for the Blind.

Resolution 81-03: reaffirms NFB support of minimum wages for all blind persons and supports House Bills H.R. 852 and H.R. 1949 as introduced in the Congress. Resolution 81-04: supports the bill H.R. 1919 and reiterates the NFB policy of working to end discrimination against the blind in employment.

Resolution 81-05: gives NFB support to Senate Bill S. 895 and House Bill H.R. 3112, which would improve voting rights for the blind.

Resolution 81-06: supports House Bill H.R. 3607, which seeks to reduce work disincentives for blind persons receiving Social Security Disability Insurance benefits.

Resolution 81-07: seeks enforcement of the decisions of Randolph-Sheppard Arbitration Panels by the Department of Education in compliance with the 1974 amendments to the Randolph-Sheppard Act.

Resolution 81-10: seeks freedom for the deaf-blind to travel by air, with or without a guide or attendant.

Resolution 81-14: deals with problems of the blind in traveling on Pacific Southwest Airlines and other discrimination against the blind in air travel.

Resolution 81-15: proposes that the NFB study the possibility of a federal tax credit for reader service expenses.

Resolution 81-16: urges continuation of the education of blind children in the least restrictive atmosphere possible and continued participation of parents in making decisions regarding the education of their blind children.

Resolution 81-17: seeks to improve the performance of the Office for Civil Rights in the Department of Education.

Printed below are the resolutions adopted by the 1981 convention of the National Federation of the Blind. These are the policy statements of the organization, the directives for the officers. Board, and staff. These resolutions, and those resolutions passed at previous NFB conventions, are important tools in accomplishing our goals, but they are more than that. They are the primary means by which each convention expresses its will and formulates priorities to be conveyed to the government, to the agencies in work with the blind, to the press, to our friends and associates, and to the public-at-large. These resolutions reflect the work of the year and of the convention; they focus on specific activities; they are the voice of the blind as we speak for ourselves.


WHEREAS, television news coverage is a vital source of information for all Americans, including the blind; and

WHEREAS, vital information, such as news, weather, and other important data, is communicated most effectively by television when both the audio and the visual components are used; and

WHEREAS, the general viewing audience does not rely solely on the visual transmission of information, but rather people depend on the verbal portion of a program during the large amounts of time that they are not physically looking at the television screen ; and

WHEREAS, during news telecasts, the names of important news personalities in an interview are often not given verbally, but merely flashed across the screen, so that much of the viewing audience does not learn the identity of the speaker; and

WHEREAS, during sports telecasts, the general viewing audience, including blind sports fans, frequently misses essential details (as one typical example, the announcers on baseball's GAME OF THE WEEK do not give the essential details of the game verbally, but simply let the picture tell the story); and

WHEREAS, this type of newscasting and sportscasting inhibits the general viewing audience, including the blind, from the normal enjoyment and full use of television: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this tenth day of July, 1981, in the City of Baltimore, Maryland, that this organization bring forcefully to the attention of all television networks this serious failure completely to serve the audience; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization strongly urge the networks to alter current practices and begin routinely to provide information verbally so that all of the viewing audience will be fully served.


WHEREAS, the 50,000 member National Federation of the Blind is the nation's oldest and largest organization of the blind, working to secure equal rights and opportunities for blind Americans; and

WHEREAS, on July 8, 1981, 2,000 delegates from the 41st Annual Convention of the National Federation of the Blind traveled from the Baltimore Civic Center to Washington and marched to the capitol steps to meet with Vice-President Bush and numerous leaders of Congress; and

WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind's rally was newsworthy—it was in fact historic, the first time that the blind of the nation in their thousands have petitioned their government for redress of grievances in this traditional way; and

WHEREAS, the three national television networks were notified of this rally and sent crews to interview and to film the event; and

WHEREAS, this news misjudgment is not an isolated incident, the media have repeatedly failed to recognize significant issues and events concerning the blind; and

WHEREAS, the blind of this nation are emerging into full and responsible citizenship and have entered the political arena to argue their own case and improve their own lives; and

WHEREAS, the media consistently ignore the real nature of the problems facing the blind and the real progress that the blind have made in solving these problems; and

WHEREAS, the media coverage continues, as it always has, to sensationalize individual achievement and stereotype the blind as a class; and

WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind has tried to solve this problem through media education, an attempt which has met with very limited success: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this tenth day of July, 1981, in the City of Baltimore, Maryland, that this organization demand that the national networks give fair, accurate, and complete coverage of newsworthy events in the life of the blind community of this nation; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization request that Sigma Delta Chi, the Society of Professional Journalists, establish a committee to investigate, in cooperation with representatives from the National Federation of the Blind, the networks' inability to understand and to cover fairly newsworthy events about the blind.


WHEREAS, government programs and programs operated by private agencies, which are subsidized by government through grants and tax exemptions, have been established throughout the United States for the purpose of meeting human needs and for making certain essential services (such as services to the blind) available to all citizens who may need them; and

WHEREAS, these programs are operated at taxpayer expense and must, therefore, be accountable to the general public and more particularly to those who need the assistance they offer and are entitled, by law, to receive; and

WHEREAS, while the avowed purpose of the legislation authorizing "human services" (including programs to the blind) is to improve our lives and to enhance our opportunities, the frustrating reality is that many of these programs have become unresponsive to their consumers; and

WHEREAS, swelling federal and state bureaucracies, with their legions of so-called "qualified and certified professionals," are absorbing more and more of our tax dollars while distributing fewer and fewer of them in the form of actual assistance to the blind; and

WHEREAS, although there are notable instances where persistence by the blind has resulted in responsive services, the general trend continues in the opposite direction toward the uncontrolled growth of evermore powerful bureaucracies—which, without any shame or apology, are mostly concerned with the interests of their highly paid "professionals," even though this means that dispensing services becomes a secondary matter; and

WHEREAS, the most extreme form of self-serving behavior by officials representing agencies for the blind is the documented unlawful conduct (including criminal activity) which has been found in several agencies throughout this country; and

WHEREAS, even though this conduct represents the exception, not the rule, it originates from and is symptomatic of a more pervasive climate of open hostility toward the blind (and especially toward leaders among the blind) by many professional workers, who seem to resent almost any form of independent thought or self-expression by the blind; and

WHEREAS, tax-supported agencies must forever be restrained from dispensing services and performing their duties in ways which control and dominate the lives of the blind: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this tenth day of July, 1981, in the City of Baltimore, Maryland, that this organization officially renounce those professionals whose conduct has brought disgrace and public shame upon the field of work with the blind; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that, in view of the aforementioned trend toward dominance and control over the lives of the blind by tax-supported agencies, this organization welcome and applaud the present national reassessment of human service programs impacting on the lies of the blind and the role of the government in sponsoring these programs, since this review (however painful it may be for some) offers an historic opportunity for reform; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that, during this period of reform, we continue to be unswerving in our support for legitimate programs which offer essential services; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that, we rededicate ourselves to working in partnership with those agencies which do not attempt to custodialize but treat us, instead, as equal human beings and first-class citizens; that we help secure needed funding for such agencies, but that we not be stampeded into giving across-the-board support to agencies in general regardless of the quality of their performance because of scare tactics and threats; and that we support and oppose agencies in the field selectively on the basis of their actual worth to the blind.


WHEREAS, National Industries for the Blind (NIB) was established for the benefit of the blind and operates under a federal law, the Javits-Wagner-O'Day Act; and

WHEREAS, under the law, NIB's legitimate and proper function is to distribute federal government contracts and to secure suitable short- and long-term marketing arrangements for the associated workshops which choose to participate in government contracting; and

WHEREAS, the primary source of revenue which NIB has to cover its operating expenses is direct payments from sheltered workshops (such payments being based on gross sales under NIB allocated contracts) thus, in reality, NIB is completely dependent upon the productive output of the more than 5,000 blind people who work in its associated shops; and

WHEREAS, despite the original concept that NIB would serve the blind by helping the workshops which employ the blind, NIB has now become an instrument of suppression against the blind by using its financial resources in a campaign of resistance to prevent blind workers from gaining improved wages and working conditions in the NIB associated workshops; and

WHEREAS, NIB's campaign against the blind raises serious questions of ethics and morality, not to mention the federal policy issue of allowing NIB to use the proceeds from government contracts in the campaign now under way to prevent blind workers from having the rights of minimum wage protection and collective bargaining which sighted workers in America enjoy: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this tenth day of July, 1981, in the City of Baltimore, Maryland, that this organization deplore NIB's dishonesty in holding itself out as a service to help the blind, while in reality planning and financing an effort of control and domination over the lives of the blind; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that, in view of NIB's preferred and public status as the sole distributor of lucrative federal contracts to sheltered workshops for the blind, this organization respectfully request a thorough review and public airing of NIB's misconduct, including Congressional oversight hearings by the appropriate committees of Congress; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization urge and invite all members of Congress and appropriate officials in the Reagan Administration to join with us in calling for an immediate halt to NIB's campaign of domination and suppression of the blind.


WHEREAS, Representatives Phillip Burton and Mario Biaggi have introduced bills (H.R. 852 and H.R. 1949, respectively) to assure that all workers who are blind will not be paid less than the federal minimum wage as required under the Fair Labor Standards Act; and

WHEREAS, it is well documented in Congressional hearings, studies, and reports that the exemption from the minimum wage which is widely used by sheltered workshops is not an advantage to the blind, but rather a loophole in the law which permits exploitation of the blind under the guise of providing opportunity; and

WHEREAS, thousands of profit-making companies are demonstrating that it is good business to hire the blind and are doing so without resorting to the tactics of exploitation which are commonplace in the sheltered workshops; and

WHEREAS, most of the charitable institutions which operate sheltered workshops regularly solicit funds from the public and from the corporate community, in addition to the preferential treatment they receive in the form of tax exemptions and priority status in sales to the agencies of government ; and

WHEREAS, paying the minimum wage to the blind will not bring bankruptcy upon these charitable institutions, many of which have managed to accumulate millions of dollars in financial assets, despite their claims of nonprofit status: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this tenth day of July, 1981, in the City of Baltimore, Maryland, that this organization commend Representatives Burton and Biaggi for their leadership in advocating fair wages and fair treatment for the blind, under our federal minimum wage laws; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization make known our position concerning subminimum wages and sheltered workshops to the leaders of government, business, industry, and labor throughout this country, in order to enlist the support of these leaders on behalf of the blind, who want to be put to work on equal terms with their sighted colleagues.


WHEREAS, in the First Session of the 97th Congress, The Honorable John Moakley has introduced H.R. 1919, a bill to amend Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to make discrimination against handicapped individuals an unlawful employment practice; and

WHEREAS, H.R. 1919 is entirely consistent with the long established goal of the National Federation of the Blind to include protection against discrimination on the basis of blindness in our nation's civil rights laws; and

WHEREAS, federal law, principally Title V of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, offers only limited and almost completely inadequate protection against employment discrimination, especially in light of restrictive court rulings handed down over the last two years; and

WHEREAS, H.R. 1919 represents a viable alternative to the present state of apparent confusion over which rights Congress meant to convey to blind and disabled citizens when passing and amending Title V of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this tenth day of July, 1981, in the City of Baltimore, Maryland, that this organization express its official gratitude and commendation to The Honorable John Moakley and to all of those in the United States House of Representatives who have joined their names with his as cosponsors of H.R. 1919; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we reaffirm our commitment to work toward enactment of federal legislation to make discrimination against the blind an unlawful employment practice; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we call upon responsible leaders in the Senate and House of Representatives, as well as in the Administration, to join with us in advancing this objective.


WHEREAS, S. 895 and H.R. 3112 have been introduced in the First Session of the 97th Congress for the purpose of extending certain provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965; and

WHEREAS, consideration of the Voting Rights Act should also address issues of unique significance to the blind who, in some areas of our country, are still denied the right of free choice in obtaining voting assistance; and

WHEREAS, every effort must be made by governments at all levels to assure that blind voters, as much as other voters, have the right to participate in the electoral process by casting secret ballots, with personal assistance as required, but without the public scrutiny of election officials; and

WHEREAS, many states and local jurisdictions have already responded positively by adopting the policy of free choice for blind persons in securing needed voting assistance; and

WHEREAS, protection under federal law is now required to make this practice universal: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this tenth day of July, 1981, in the City of Baltimore, Maryland, that this organization urge Congress to include voting rights for the blind in the current legislation being considered; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we urge Congressional leaders of the current struggle for voting rights to offer and support amendments to their respective bills which will assure that all blind citizens in the United States will be able to vote with dignity and freedom of choice in obtaining the assistance which may be required.


WHEREAS, H.R. 3607, a bill which calls for significant changes in the conditions governing eligibility for blind persons to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits, has been introduced in the First Session of the 97th Congress by The Honorable William Lehman; and

WHEREAS, H.R. 3607 seeks the total elimination of work disincentives which are imposed by law upon blind SSDI beneficiaries; and

WHEREAS, in 1977, Congress took a moderate, yet progressive step toward reducing the work disincentives by raising the ceiling on allowed earnings for blind SSDI beneficiaries and establishing the limit on earnings for the blind at the same level as the amount of outside earnings permitted for persons who retire at age 65; and

WHEREAS, among the many proposed changes in Social Security, the Reagan Administration has endorsed the plan of eliminating the earnings ceiling for persons who retire at age 65; and

WHEREAS, adoption of H.R. 3607 would have the same beneficial result for blind persons, who receive SSDI checks, yet it would not have the undesirable effect of adding a substantial number of new beneficiaries to the Social Security roles; and

WHEREAS, the Social Security based work disincentives are as real for the working-age blind as they are for persons who are old enough to qualify for Social Security retirement benefits: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this tenth day of July, 1981, in the City of Baltimore, Maryland, that this organization loudly applaud and commend The Honorable William Lehman for his sensitivity to the serious problem of work disincentives for the blind under the Social Security Administration; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that, in view of President Reagan's support for removing the burden of the earnings limitation from persons who have attained age 65, we call upon the President and key leaders in the Administration and Congress to endorse and promote H.R. 3607 or similar legislation as consideration is given to needed reforms in our Social Security system.


WHEREAS, in 1974, Congress enacted sweeping reforms in the federal Randolph-Sheppard Act, a law which gives "priority" to blind persons in operating vending facilities on federal property; and

WHEREAS, the 1974 changes established substantive statutory rights for blind persons who become vendors in the Randolph-Sheppard Program, including their entitlement to have disputes with state agencies submitted to binding arbitration; and

WHEREAS, despite the unquestionable mandate and unmistakable intent of the law, responsible federal officials have persisted in erecting every conceivable road-block to prevent arbitration from becoming an effective process for the timely and equitable resolution of grievances brought by blind vendors; and

WHEREAS, the latest, and by far the most cruel hoax of all, is the Secretary of Education's declared intention to choose which rulings of the Randolph-Sheppard Arbitration Panels will be enforced and which ones will be disregarded; and

WHEREAS, this announced selective observance of arbitration decisions deliberately nullifies the law and completely strips all blind vendors of a statutory right of due process: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this tenth day of July, 1981, in the City of Baltimore. Maryland, that this organization categorically and vigorously oppose subverting the legal authority of the Randolph-Sheppard Arbitration Panels, which are lawfully convened by the Secretary of Education for the purpose of resolving disputes based on findings of fact and conclusions of law; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization take all steps necessary and within its power (including action in Congress and the courts, if necessary) to reverse this illegal, unfounded, and ill-conceived position now being pursued by the United States Department of Education.


WHEREAS, some airlines are requiring deaf-blind persons to be accompanied by an attendant in order to fly; and

WHEREAS, many deaf-blind persons can, need to, and want to travel by air without a companion; and

WHEREAS, freedom to travel by air with or without a companion is a basic right of every American that should not be denied the deaf-blind; and

WHEREAS, the International Air Transportation Association issued regulations in April of 1981 that require that deaf-blind persons have a medical certification to fly and that they must be accompanied by an attendant; and

WHEREAS, the Civil Aeronautics Board in the United States has approved the Regulations of the International Air Transportation Association for enforcement in this country: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this tenth day of July, 1981, that this organization call upon all airlines to extend to deaf-blind persons the right to travel alone or with a companion; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization deplore and condemn the provisions of the 1981 Regulations of the International Air Transportation Association that require that deaf-blind persons have medical certification and be accompanied by an attendant when flying; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we call for the repeal of these repressive regulations.


WHEREAS, during the past forty years, through the efforts of the National Federation of the Blind, blind persons have increased significantly our participation in society and have become equal partners with the sighted in all walks of life; and

WHEREAS, an essential part of our independence and equality, as first-class citizens, is the right to travel independently, unhindered by arbitrary restrictions, unimpeded by officious and impertinent personnel, and unimpaired by capricious regulations adopted with no rational foundation; and

WHEREAS, on September 18, 1980, Michael Hingson, a blind sales executive for the Xerox Corporation, while attempting to board a Pacific Southwest Airlines flight in Los Angeles, was unceremoniously forced off the plane; and

WHEREAS, the actions of Pacific Southwest Airlines violated both federal law and regulations and were contrary to the policies of Pacific Southwest Airlines; and

WHEREAS, the actions of Pacific Southwest Airlines trample on the legal and Constitutional rights of the blind; Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this tenth day of July, 1981, in the City of Baltimore, Maryland, that we condemn and deplore the unreasonable, unlawful, and discriminatory practices of Pacific Southwest Airlines; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we call upon Pacific Southwest Airlines to recognize the rights of blind people to travel by air, free of arbitrary restrictions, and without "special rules"; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we call upon appropriate federal agencies to enforce the provisions of the law and the Constitution which guarantee freedom of travel.


WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind has, since its inception, worked for full integration of the blind into society with the belief that the blind can perform any job as well as or better than our sighted counterparts, given proper training and the opportunity to use it; and

WHEREAS, Public Law 93-112 has been passed to help bring this about by providing for reasonable accommodations such as readers; and

WHEREAS, this process has been quite slow and often is met with much resistance and perhaps denial of employment; and

WHEREAS, this, combined with budget constraints, creates a need for change without relieving the employer's responsibility to provide readers; and

WHEREAS, employment of a blind person would become far easier if that person could afford the hiring of a reader; and

WHEREAS, the employment of such readers would create more employment opportunities for the blind, making us competitive on an equal basis with our sighted peers; and

WHEREAS, such employment of the blind would bring about public education as to the normality of the blind; and

WHEREAS, the employment of readers by the blind would bring about employment opportunities for others in need of it: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this tenth day of July, 1981, in the City of Baltimore, Maryland, that this organization study the possibility that a tax credit for blind persons who hire readers, an "adjustment to income" for blind persons who hire readers, or another alternative income tax provision would enhance the employment and advance opportunities for all blind Americans.


WHEREAS, the National Federation of the Blind works constantly for security, equality, and opportunity for all blind people, including blind children; and

WHEREAS, with suitable arrangements, most blind children can succeed well in regular public schools, with benefit to both the blind and the sighted students; and

WHEREAS, nevertheless, many teachers and school administrators believe that blind children cannot succeed in regular schools, and would arbitrarily force them into special schools if the law allowed it; and

WHEREAS, Public Law 94-142 now requires that a blind child be educated in the "least restrictive" setting (that is, least removed from the regular setting) which is appropriate for that child; and

WHEREAS, parents must be equal participants in determining and monitoring the appropriate placement for their child; and

WHEREAS, some members of Congress have proposed changes in Public Law 94-142; and

WHEREAS, the regulations implementing Public Law 94-142 are in the process of being revised by the United States Office of Education: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this tenth day of July, 1981, in the City of Baltimore, Maryland, that this organization urge that federal law continue to require that a blind child be educated in the least restrictive setting that is appropriate for him or her; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that we insist that federal law continue to require that parents be equal participants in determining and monitoring class placement for their children.


WHEREAS, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), within the United States Department of Education, is required by law to investigate complaints of discrimination filed by blind persons and to enforce the protections afforded under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended; and

WHEREAS, for many blind persons, OCR is the only available mechanism for protection against unlawful discrimination; and

WHEREAS, in 1977, the National Federation of the Blind intervened in the litigation pending against the Office for Civil Rights and obtained, along with the other plaintiffs, a Court Order compelling the timely investigation of civil rights complaints; and

WHEREAS, subsequent to this order and for approximately two years thereafter, OCR made good faith efforts to meet both the time frames specified in the Court Order and its mandate to enforce civil rights; and

WHEREAS, more recently there has been a failure by OCR to meet its commitments, causing widespread disillusionment with OCR as a viable civil rights enforcement agency; and

WHEREAS, one factor causing this disillusionment is our experience that OCR personnel lack a belief in the equality of blind persons; and

WHEREAS, OCR is unable to detect discrimination based on blindness and therefore does not protect the civil rights of blind persons; and

WHEREAS, OCR management has demonstrated an obsession with playing the numbers game, rather than the commitment to quality investigation and enforcement efforts; and

WHEREAS, management, in order to meet production quotas, has established bureaucratic systems which increase paperwork, decrease meaningful and timely resolutions of complaints, and generally have a pernicious effect upon civil rights enforcement: Now, therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED by the National Federation of the Blind in Convention assembled this tenth day of July, 1981, in the City of Baltimore, Maryland, that this organization find the work erformance of the Office for Civil Rights unacceptable; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this organization strongly urge OCR to take all steps necessary to educate its staff and to reorient its priorities in order to protect the civil rights of blind Americans.

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